This Op-Ed by Nicole Malliotakis originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter
The 2013 legislative session was filled with philosophical differences and conflicts that slowed the progress made for New Yorkers over the last two years. Ideological debates hindered many important measures from moving forward. However, the state Assembly was able to deliver positive results for seniors in 2013.
A key step taken dealt with controlling the cost of living, a critical issue for senior citizens living on fixed incomes. The Assembly passed legislation that would configure The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), which helps elderly citizens with the cost of rent-controlled or stabilized apartments in New York City, to ensure that those in need of help receive assistance.
The administrators of the program would be tasked with reaching out to eligible participants who have not enrolled, as well as providing ample notice for enrollees to renew their exemptions. These efforts would accommodate seniors who lack English proficiency, do not have Internet access, and struggle with sight, hearing or speech impairments.
On the cost-of-living front, another bill was passed by the Assembly to create the Farm to Senior Program to promote the purchase of healthy New York farm products by senior centers and other institutions for the aging.
The Assembly also acted on several measures to make New York a safer place for our seniors. Laws were passed to help spot elder abuse and increase awareness of resources available to seniors who have been harmed. This will not only help professional caretakers and volunteers stop abuse in its tracks, but will empower senior citizens to access assistance.
Financial safety was also strengthened. A bill passed by the Assembly would create requirements for reporting suspected exploitation of a senior citizen by a financial institution with protections for the whistle-blower who reports the abuse. This is a multi-tiered effort to make sure that the institutions our seniors rely on the most are held to the highest standards of accountability and that no misdeed can slip through the cracks.
The best is yet to come, however. The MTA has announced plans to restore the B37 bus running to downtown Brooklyn along Third Avenue. For three years, our community has fought to restore this bus line, which residents relied on.
New Yorks elderly spent their lives building the communities we are proud to call home. They deserve the support and protections necessary to lead safe, affordable and fruitful lives. Thankfully, in a year when nothing came easy at the Capitol, the Assembly made sure our seniors were treated with respect.