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Seniors Protest Cuomo's Budget Cuts for NORCs

Friday, February 17, 2017


For senior citizens and their advocates, this Valentine’s Day was more about activism than chocolate and flowers. They flooded the phone lines of their local legislators to tell them that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget is simply not acceptable.

“On Valentine’s Day we were asking the legislators to have a heart,” says Bonnie Lumagui, director of the Co-op Village NORC, which provides social and health services for senior citizens in a cluster of Lower East Side co-ops. “We are trying to get the word out any way we can.”

The word is that Cuomo's $152.3 billion budget proposal is a blow to the 16 New York City NORCs, or Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, which provide various services for elderly residents who wish to grow old in their own apartments. “Right now NORCs are getting roughly $4 million,” says Lumagui. “That isn’t even enough to fund the current projects in existence. Now the governor wants to cut $700,000 from the NORC budget. Such a massive cut will result in the closure of at least four NORCs.”

According to the population data provided by Cornell University, New York State is home to the third-largest elderly population in the nation. Currently there are more than 2.8 million New Yorkers over the age of 65, and that number is expected to grow to over 3 million by 2020 and to almost 3.5 million by 2025.

“For the first time ever, 20 percent of New York State residents are age 60 or older,” says Nora Moran, a policy analyst at United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), an advocacy group for 37 settlement houses and community organizations in the city. “This is the time to invest in programs like NORCs. It’s an incredibly effective model. NORCs promote independence and engage older people before a crisis happens, to avoid nursing homes and hospitals.”

As Lumagui sees it, that model is under siege. “The proposed budget cuts would be catastrophic,” she says. “The final budget contracts will get awarded in May or late June. Until then we have to make sure that the assembly will tell the governor to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new budget, because cutting NORCs is not option.”

Last year, New York State passed laws that modernized the NORC program, which focused on increasing program quality, collecting more data on the effectiveness of NORCs, and allowing expansion across the state. “NORC programs really pushed for these reforms,” says UNH’s Moran. “We knew that these changes were needed to start more NORCs across the state. Unfortunately, Gov. Cuomo’s current budget only planned to support 24 NORCs, though there are currently 29 NORCs in New York State receiving state support. Without more funds, we could see existing NORCs close, and no expansion to underserved older communities that need these services.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Democrat whose district includes the Brooklyn waterfront and lower Manhattan, is all geared up to fight. "Budget cuts that force NORCs to close would leave New York's seniors out in the cold,” he says. “NORCs provide critical housing and services to seniors across the state, and I'm working with colleagues and advocates to ensure the budget protects them."

Mike Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, doesn’t know how many calls came in on Valentine’s Day, but he says volume was heavy. “We got a whole bunch of calls, but there is still hope,” he says. “We are fighting it. We don't think cutting senior programs is a good thing.”


https://www.habitatmag.com/Publication-Content/Legal-Financial/2017/2017-February/NORC-Fight



Poster campaign: In troubled times, Brooklyn folks support Arabic neighbors

Friday, February 17, 2017



An attractive green poster showing the Brooklyn Bridge overprinted with the words “We Support Our Neighbors” in English and Arabic will soon be popping up in windows across Brownstone Brooklyn.

Elected officials from neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill, home to numerous Arabic restaurants and shops, are reporting that constituents have repeatedly expressed deep concerns about “anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric” emanating from Washington.

Now, they’ve joined with local activists to launch the We Support Our Neighbors poster campaign, designed to show positivity in this time of Trump.

The poster idea was the brainchild of Brooklyn Heights resident and transit advocate Quinn Raymond.

“I wanted to do something to show our neighbors that we are a caring community and welcome them,” he said in a statement on Monday. “The elected officials and civic leaders responded immediately, which confirmed my faith in our community. I hope other neighborhoods will follow suit.”

“The We Support Our Neighbors poster campaign is a simple way that neighbors can demonstrate both their opposition to these divisive federal policies and their support of all members of our communities,” state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said in a statement on Monday.

“As neighborhoods which have been home to various Middle Eastern communities for many decades, we have deep appreciation and concern for our neighbors. At the same time, we have the freedom, and one might argue the greater obligation, to stand up for the broader community,” she added.

“Neighbors coming together to support each other and lift up the community is a part of the settlement house tradition that we are proud to be a part of,” said Joseph Botros, board chairman of the Arab American Family Support Center which provides educational and social services from its offices on Court Street.

He added, “We are humbled to see so many of our Brooklyn neighbors reaching out during these tumultuous times for our communities and we thank all that have made the We Support Our Neighbors Poster Campaign possible.”

Other local officials added their voices.

“Our Middle Eastern neighbors and businesses were here before the Boerum Hill Association began 50 years ago,” Boerum Hill Association president Howard Kolins said in the statement. “They’ve never let us down and we’re not about to let them down.”

"Our country, city and borough have long embraced inclusion as an American value — We Support Our Neighbors is about showing that should never change," state Sen. Daniel Squadron said.

"Our borough, our city and our nation were founded by immigrants. To turn against our fellow global citizens, our neighbors, during these times is to turn against ourselves,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin.

“These are our neighbors, the people we live with and the local businesses that we patronize, that contribute to the great diversity that makes us who we are as Brooklynites,” Cobble Hill Association President Amy Breedlove said.

The idea is also backed by United Neighborhood Houses. Posters were set to be available at the offices of elected officials and other locations late Monday.




Full article: http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2017/2/14/poster-campaign-troubled-times-brooklyn-folks-support-arabic-neighbors

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New York Nonprofit Media: Is ‘Trump bump’ unevenly distributed?

Tuesday, February 07, 2017



Excerpt:

Kevin Douglas, co-director of policy and advocacy at
United Neighborhood Houses, said organizations across the board were bracing for funding challenges. But, with the exception of groups that support the Arab-American community, there was little talk of a dramatic uptick in donations among local community-based organizations. He said he expected nonprofits might directly suffer from budget cuts to federal agencies that contract with social services organizations or from reduced funding for federal programs such as Medicaid. Nonprofits may also be affected if state and local governments have to spend more money on existing services due to potential cuts from the federal government.

“I don’t think there’s a ton of funding at the federal level for after school that Trump is going to cut on day one, but if he cuts health care access, and then the governor and the mayor have to figure out how they’re going to backfill the coverage for almost three million New Yorkers who have health care through the Affordable Care Act, then that means there’s less money to spend on after school and on other services,” he said before the inauguration.

Many nonprofits can’t build a nest egg to steel themselves against budgetary threats because much of their money is contractually bound for services and overhead spending. “Whether it’s funders, or boards or colleagues, people want to know what you’re doing in preparation of what’s coming,” Douglas said. “And no one knows what’s coming.”


Click here to read the full story.


Kevin Douglas, co-director of policy and advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses, said organizations across the board were bracing for funding challenges. But, with the exception of groups that support the Arab-American community, there was little talk of a dramatic uptick in donations among local community-based organizations. He said he expected nonprofits might directly suffer from budget cuts to federal agencies that contract with social services organizations or from reduced funding for federal programs such as Medicaid. Nonprofits may also be affected if state and local governments have to spend more money on existing services due to potential cuts from the federal government.

“I don’t think there’s a ton of funding at the federal level for after school that Trump is going to cut on day one, but if he cuts health care access, and then the governor and the mayor have to figure out how they’re going to backfill the coverage for almost three million New Yorkers who have health care through the Affordable Care Act, then that means there’s less money to spend on after school and on other services,” he said before the inauguration.

Many nonprofits can’t build a nest egg to steel themselves against budgetary threats because much of their money is contractually bound for services and overhead spending. “Whether it’s funders, or boards or colleagues, people want to know what you’re doing in preparation of what’s coming,” Douglas said. “And no one knows what’s coming.”

- See more at: http://nynmedia.com/news/is-trump-bump-unevenly-distributed#sthash.WL4Bf85Y.dpuf

Cuomo plan for federal funds could blow hole in city’s budget for seniors

Monday, February 06, 2017



A transfer of funds in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $152.3 billion executive budget proposal could blow a hole in the budget for the city Department for the Aging, potentially leading to the closure of dozens of senior centers.

Senior citizens advocates are planning a trip to Albany this week to meet with state officials and ask Cuomo to amend a proposal that would redirect funds from adult care to child care services, removing the flexibility the city has had in the past to allocate the funds at its own discretion.

Buried deep on page 368 of the governor’s Aid to Localities bill in his executive budget proposal there’s an allocation for Title XX funds — also referred to as the Social Services Block Grant, a capped entitlement program from the federal government. The proposal states that the funds will be used only for child care services.

Caryn Resnick, deputy commissioner for the Department of the Aging, said the agency estimates the transfer of funds would result in a $17 million cut to services. That could force the city to consider shutting down at least 65 senior centers.

“For now we do interpret this as a potential cut to our agency which would have pretty dramatic effects on our programming and our ability to fund senior centers and all the services they deliver,” Resnick said. “It’s really pretty dramatic — 65 centers is about a third or 30 percent of the senior centers.”

The Cuomo administration argued that redirecting the funding toward child care will not amount to a funding cut or reduction in services.

“We are directing Title XX funds to child care while increasing total funding to New York City by $400 million,” said Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state budget division.

The proposal will be a tough sell for the Democratic-dominated Assembly, given that most members come from the New York City area.

“We don't think cutting senior programs is a good thing and localities should have the flexibility they've always had,” said Mike Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy at LiveON NY, a senior citizen advocacy organization, said the Cuomo proposal would lead to a cut in the number of meals served to the city’s aging population as well as a reduction in services, including social activities, eviction assistance and help with health care.

“Imagine that one day 6,000 seniors across the city will wake up to learn their senior center is closed because the state budget was cut,” Sackman said. “They will be not only upset but very confused about why anybody would do that, so it’s disturbing that the governor’s office and the office of budget management would do this change to the budget language.”

The transfer of funding to child care services is particularly frustrating for advocates who say the move pits two basic services against each other.

Susan Stamler, executive director for United Neighborhood Houses, an organization which operates several settlement houses that provide a range of services including senior and child care, said the governor’s proposal will take away the city’s funding flexibility.

“It can be used for child care, senior services, it’s flexible," she said of the previous procedure. Now, she said, the governor is telling the city how it must use "these discretionary dollars" which could lead to a "hole" in the city's budget.

While the Cuomo administration says that it’s increasing total funding to New York City, the executive budget proposal has a few measures that would cut funding for the city.

For example, the state would cut $50 million in Medicaid funding from the city unless Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration comes up with a plan in the next five months to receive $100 million more in federal Medicaid dollars for preschool and school supportive health services.

The governor, who has feuded with de Blasio since 2015, also proposed cutting $11 million in state aid to the city's health department, arguing that the city is more readily able to access federal funds compared to the state's county governments.

The state’s proposal also is likely to complicate the City Council’s budget process.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who chairs the chamber's Committee for the Aging, said she’s already working to have the city include funds in the city's executive budget which de Blasio did not include in his preliminary financial plan.

Resnick said the city is working to have the language in the budget adjusted.


Read the article here

“The commissioner intends to have meetings with the key elected officials in Albany, the head of the aging committee, and we intend to talk to them about the impact, and ask that the language gets changed back,” Resnick said.