New York, NY – Yesterday, all five borough presidents joined advocates and senior service providers in their respective boroughs to urge the expeditious restoration of funding to the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA), which funds vital programs in the city for older adults. The virtual press conference was held in response to the City’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget cuts to the agency, some of which is administered through the offices of the borough presidents. DFTA, prior to the cuts, already received a paltry share of the City budget, even though roughly 20 percent of all New Yorkers are seniors.

The borough presidents, advocates, and providers demanded that the City restore the funding, and, in the meantime, that the City work to establish a public-private partnership to fill the budgetary gaps to ensure that seniors do not go without vital services, especially in the midst of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has left them especially vulnerable.

“Under normal circumstances, our senior citizens are a vulnerable population that deserve services that support them and help them age with dignity. During a deadly pandemic that disproportionately impacts seniors, the need for resources is even more dire to keep them healthy, active, and engaged while we continue to fight COVID-19. Compounding the issue is that our city’s aging population is growing rapidly, which will create an even greater need down the line. In the past, I and my fellow borough presidents have been proud to allocate funding toward senior service providers in each of our boroughs, but that funding was cut without warning this year. We are demanding a restoration of funding, and a creative public-private partnership approach in the interim to ensure no gaps in service for our seniors. Our budgets reveal our priorities — and right now, we’re not doing enough to prioritize the aging population in our city,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“We are appalled by the opaque process by which these senior services cuts were pushed through and the cuts themselves. This is the worst possible time to be reducing services for seniors,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

“We fully understand there is a pandemic and an economic and budgetary crisis that has resulted from it, but this does not justify drastic funding cuts to an organization that supports the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our community. The critical funding for the New York City Department for the Aging needs to be restored so they have the ability to provide vital services for our older adult and senior citizens, particularly as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Staten Island Borough President Jim Oddo.

“Our senior citizens are already reeling from the effects of COVID-19 and it is unthinkable that we would cut resources benefiting that population when they need our support now more than ever. We need more funding for senior services, not less, especially as our aging population grows and our social safety nets continue to be threatened at the Federal level. As the greatest city in the world and one of the major economic centers of our nation, the New York City government has an obligation to provide for its most vulnerable communities. We must restore this funding and stand with our seniors,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“Nearly a third of the city’s elders call Queens home, yet the City has persistently spent the lowest per-capita for Queens seniors out of all five boroughs. This sharp, historical disparity has been made even worse by this budget,” said Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee. “On the backs of our elders is more than our fair share of pain.”

“Non-profits have been on the front lines of serving older adults throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have proven time and time again their unwavering commitment to all older New Yorkers in our communities. Now more than ever, their work is essential, and their funding should reflect this fact. We welcome and thank all allies and advocates — including the borough presidents in each borough that have long supported senior services — for joining to heighten the call for adequate and full funding for these critical senior services,” said Director of Public Policy of LiveOn NY Katelyn Andrews.

“The borough presidents’ offices identify unmet needs in the community that are not necessarily funded through any other entity or branch of government. The borough presidents, through their discretionary funds and resources, provide funding that ensures that community-based organizations, those that are on the frontlines, and trusted sources of information and services are able to keep their doors open. During a time when New York City’s elders have been deemed the most vulnerable population in the pandemic, it is appalling that the borough president discretionary funding would be eliminated. We urge the Mayor and the City Council to re-think these actions, and restore the funds,” said Executive Director of the Brooklyn-wide Interagency Council on Aging (BWICA) Maria Alvarez.

DFTA funding goes to support various programs that provide services to seniors throughout New York City. These programs include senior center programming, case management, elder abuse prevention, and more. A portion of the funding allocated to DFTA each year is discretionary funding for each of the five borough presidents’ offices, which are in turn disbursed to senior service providers within their respective boroughs. In Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), the City allocated $1,129,774 for discretionary funding through the borough presidents’ offices. This year, that funding was cut from the budget entirely.

According to a recent report from Center for an Urban Future, as of March 2019, 1.2 million New York City residents were over the age of 65, and the aging population has grown by 237,000 people in the past decade. Older adults have proven to be more susceptible to COVID-19: Data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) shows that the vast majority — 17,153, by the most recent count — of confirmed and probable deaths from COVID-19 in New York City are people ages 65 and older.

A recording of the press conference is available here.

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