Seniors are anchors in our communities and our families. By 2030, an estimated one in five New Yorkers will be over the age of 60, making older adults the fastest growing demographic in the city. Older adults deserve to age in place with dignity, and Tricia is committed to supporting programs that make this possible. Amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, senior New Yorkers have faced additional obstacles in receiving health care, food, and mental health support. We must recognize that older adults are our future, and have significant contributions still to make for our city and as we begin COVID recovery. From anti-eviction/anti-harassment initiatives to senior engagement programming, Tricia will fight against ageism in our community and City at large.
The following is an outline of Tricia’s legislative priorities to ensure that every New Yorker has the means to age with dignity.
Tricia is committed to making senior housing affordable so that all seniors have access to the resources they need to age with dignity. New York’s long-time residents should not have to struggle to find affordable housing. Roughly 65% of seniors spend more than half of their income on rent, and even those receiving city assistance are often the targets of eviction and harassment by landlords. All senior housing must be kept accessible, affordable, and safe.
Addressing NYCHA Housing Quality
NYCHA is the largest housing provider in the city, and roughly 10,000 NYCHA units are designated for seniors. Our city’s neglect of NYCHA, from broken elevators, rampant pests, unmanaged heat to frequent hallway fires, are most acutely felt by seniors. Tricia is dedicated to improving NYCHA and holding leadership accountable without privatization. She will work to streamline the ticketing and repairs processes and will fight for reforms to NYCHA’s operating procedures to put more power in the hands of tenants. She will also work with state and federal elected officials to secure funding to make critical repairs.
Strengthening Housing and Rental Assistance
Thousands of our city’s senior residents rely on Section 8 vouchers to subsidize otherwise unaffordable rents. Far too many of the city’s landlords use legal loopholes, such as credit-checks and minimum income requirements, to deny housing to older adults paying with Section 8 vouchers. Tricia will fight to close the remaining legal loopholes and use her office to support senior tenants against discriminatory landlords.
Tricia will also push for the expansion of the SCRIE and Section 202 programs. While SCRIE currently freezes rent for senior citizens making up to $50,000 a year and living in rent-controlled or affordable housing, Tricia will work to expand eligibility for seniors in market-rate units, and reform SCRIE policies to be more responsive to recipients’ shifting financial circumstances. The Section 202 housing program provides affordable housing with home-care services to very low-income seniors who wish to live independently, yet it is currently underfunded and neglected. Tricia will fight to increase Section 202 program funding and construct more Section 202 housing in New York City to provide housing for an estimated 200,000 seniors on the waiting list.
Further, Tricia will work with the Department of Finance and care workers to keep seniors informed about changes in their housing and programs they are eligible for.
Fighting Eviction and Harassment
Senior citizens are often the targets of illegal tactics that landlords employ to avoid repairs or to raise rents. Tricia will work to expand right-to-counsel so that all New Yorkers are eligible, as well as increase funding for the NYC Department for the Aging’s Assigned Counsel Project to support eligible seniors. Further, Tricia will fight to increase penalties against landlords who harass senior residents and host eviction prevention workshops.
Senior Citizens and Homelessness
With 2,000 seniors, who are predominantly immigrants, facing homelessness in New York City, we must take an intersectional approach to serving our homeless New Yorkers. Tricia will fight for homeless outreach that is culturally sensitive and provided in a wide range of languages, including ASL. She will also fight to ensure the unique health and social service needs of seniors are accounted for in all aspects of the city's homeless outreach services.
Healthcare is a human right, and all seniors deserve high quality, dignified healthcare that is both affordable and accessible. Unfortunately, the current healthcare system often allows senior citizens to fall through the cracks and Tricia is committed to providing funding, educational resources, and legislative support to healthcare providers serving seniors.
Improving Care and Case Management
New York City is facing a care crisis, with record-long waiting lists for home health aides. Tricia will work to address the root of this crisis by investing in the care economy, pushing New York City and State to increase the wages of home health care workers and expand home-care and case management programs. Tricia will partner with city and statewide agencies to fund more EISEP home care availability, which is especially vital for Medicare participants. Further, Tricia will fight cuts to the Department of Aging’s budget, which have had devastating effects on case management waitlists. We must increase the number of trained geriatric social workers and mental health professionals who can provide high quality case management and social service care in New York City.
Supporting our Senior Centers and Nonprofit Partners
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, senior centers have continued to operate virtually, helping to combat social isolation that contributes to COVID-19 mortality. Now, as many seniors receive vaccinations and the possibility of returning to in person programming grows, many centers are lacking the necessary funding to resume operations. Tricia will fight to ensure that the city’s budget is funding our senior centers, and will advocate at the state level to ensure that Social Adult Day Services are once again covered under the State’s Medicaid-sponsored managed long-term care plans (MLTCPs) benefit package.
Additionally, Tricia is committed to fulfilling the promises made to our nonprofit partners regarding indirect costs. Nonprofits struggle to provide fair wages to their workers while also covering indirect costs associated with their services. In FY20, the City announced that it would only cover 60% of indirect costs and FY21 is likely to be lower. This can mean cuts of hundreds of thousands of dollars for our nonprofits. Tricia will fight for increased funding to our nonprofits to cover indirect costs, as well as new initiatives to help support our nonprofit workers who are caring for our seniors.
Innovating Care Delivery
Mobile clinics, library programs, food banks and food delivery services like Meals on Wheels all act as care providers, filling the gap between senior citizens and official healthcare providers. They are an important source of information on the current state of New York's elderly citizens, and they are often the first to notice if something is amiss with individual residents. Tricia will support increasing aid to these programs, incorporating them into the city's official care network.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, one in ten seniors lived in a household with insufficient food. That number has since risen to one in five by some estimates, meaning as many as 500,000 older New Yorkers go hungry every month. We must act now. Many seniors are eligible for benefits like SNAP, but do not know they are eligible. We must increase funding for the Department of the Aging to employ more caseworkers who can help with assessments and resource management, as well as strengthen our partnerships with nonprofits to enroll eligible seniors and combat this crisis.
Further, because of the pandemic the need for homebound food services has skyrocketed, with 70,000 seniors now receiving meals, compared to 20,000 before. Tricia will fight to make sure that nonprofits doing this work including organizations like Meals on Wheels receive the funding necessary to meet the increased need and keep their employees and volunteers safe by providing appropriate PPE.
Countless studies have shown that seniors with an animal companion exhibit lower rates of depression, require fewer doctors’ visits, and have lowered blood pressure and overall levels of stress. Companion animals are not only a source of affection and responsibility - they become family. However, seniors often experience significant obstacles to pet ownership. Physical limitations, fixed incomes or significant health concerns can all dissuade pet ownership. Additionally, without an emergency plan in place, those beloved pets are too often sent to shelters when their owner is hospitalized or passes away.
In order to support pet ownership and the increased quality of life that can come with it, Tricia will advocate for the establishment of new protocols for the healthcare system to systematically involve pet planning as part of the intake and discharge process. Additionally, Tricia will advocate to fund and support nonprofit and public efforts to help our seniors care for their pets and put emergency care plans in place.
Many seniors struggle navigating the city due to an inaccessible built environment. Tricia will fight to integrate the universal design principles into all infrastructure projects and build codes to increase accessibility. We must invest in accessible transit, housing, parks and open space, and businesses so that all New Yorkers are able to move around our City. Further, Tricia will work to ensure that projects like universal curb cuts are fast tracked to increase accessibility for seniors and disabled residents.
New York City needs a multilayered, comprehensive approach to improve the AAR service, which countless senior citizens rely on to access critical healthcare appointments and services. In 2020, only 44% of AAR trips were provided in accessible vehicles. Tricia will fight to increase this percentage to better match demand, particularly during peak travel hours. The City Council also must hold AAR leadership accountable by creating more transparent processes to issue and address complaints - Tricia will work to create an online portal and directory to better track complaints and their resolutions. Tricia will also push to strengthen the Paratransit Advisory Committee to ensure that AAR is observing fair practices and providing quality services.
A majority of New York City’s seniors are women, yet their specific needs and priorities have been ignored. Women's voices are too often silenced, particularly as they age. Tricia will work to amplify the voices of older women in conversations about senior health, housing, and engagement, and work to provide specific information regarding health concerns for seniors of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
Women and Social Work
Female social workers have been the ones who have truly stepped up during this pandemic, continuing to bravely serve those with the most need. However, the wages are so low for these workers that many are going to age into poverty. We must closely assess the City's contracts with social workers to raise the floor on pay, making consistent cost of living adjustments across human service fields. Social workers have reported a fear of retaliation if they speak out against unfair contracts and unsafe work environments. We must treat these essential workers better. As a social worker, Tricia is deeply committed to working with other advocates to fight for increased pay and expanding social work visibility throughout the public sector.