New York Daily News: $3.3M Restored by City Council Members and Health Advocates to Keep Workers Serving City's Seniors
By Corinne Lestch
January 12, 2011
Thousands of elderly New Yorkers and the people who care for them were breathing a collective sigh of relief Tuesday since city funding for case managers and social workers was restored.
City Council members and health advocates took up the issue in hearings last week, reaching a deal to restore $3.3 million to the senior citizen lifeline.
"It was a real cliffhanger," said Bobbie Sackman of the Council of Senior Centers and Services. "It was a huge sigh of relief, but we're trying to send a message to the mayor: please leave this service alone."
Under proposed city cuts, about 100 case managers would have been laid off across the five boroughs, Sackman said, with about 8,000 home-bound seniors losing services.
Those services include coordinating Meals-on-Wheels, home care, food stamps and transportation.
Advocates said last month's blizzard provided a perfect example of why the cuts should be reversed.
"These are their first responders," Sackman said. "These people, knowing they were about to lose their jobs, were making thousands of calls."
Washington Heights resident Geraldine McKee stayed inside her apartment during the snowstorm.
But her case manager, upon whom she depends for Meals-on-Wheels and other services, made sure to call and see that she was comfortable.
"She called to see if I was okay," said McKee, 89. "She is extremely thoughtful. I can't tell you how important she is to me."
Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan), chair of the Aging Committee said, "The money for case management is as core as it gets in terms of the services we provide for frail, vulnerable seniors."
Lappin said it would cost a lot more if people went to nursing homes or hospitals.
Each social worker carries a caseload of about 71 seniors, with 800 seniors across the city on waiting lists. But the city still has to slash its budget by about $8 million by next fiscal year in July.
Advocates are cautiously optimistic.
"We don't know what the fiscal year will bring," said Evelyn Laureano, executive director of Neighborhood Shopp Case Management agency in the Bronx. "We don't know if that means we have to prepare ourselves for more advocacy to keep our services in place. It was like we dodged a bullet."