Weprin Promises Fight To Get Senior Benefits In Next Year’s Budget
Council Speaker Gifford Miller, one of several expected opponents to the mayor’s bid for re-election in November, and Councilmember David Weprin, council Finance Committee chairman and its lead negotiator on the budget, both said the mayor’s proposal does not include funding for all senior programs. They vowed they would correct this oversight before the budget is approved in May and take effect on July 1.
Weprin (D–Hollis) said everyone must keep in mind that the mayor’s preliminary budget does not include the $300 million that was baselined by the City Council for several programs, including senior services.
“These are service cuts and these service cuts will affect all New Yorkers,” Weprin added. “Over the next few months, the city council will work hard to make sure that not a single one of our constituents experiences a cut in necessary services.”
Among the programs omitted by the mayor from his budget proposal, is senior meals, Weprin said.
The present situation, which emerged at the start of the budget season, is not new. It happened with Bloomberg last year and it has happened with previous mayors, too. In each instance, the city council put up a fight to get senior programs in the budget by the time the final vote was taken on it.
Weprin pointed out, “Last year, the city council fought to put more than $278 million in the budget, which included restoration to programs for seniors, day care, tuition assistance and education. That budget battle also led to the implementation of a city Earned Income Tax Credit (for low income wage earners),” which was introduced by Weprin.
So stay tuned. The budget battle is on and Weprin and Queens’ other councilmembers, if past experience counts, will keep their eye on programs for seniors to make sure they are in the budget when the final vote is taken on it.
CLINTON ATTACKS MEDICAID CUTS: In a speech last Thursday to Families USA, a liberal advocacy group, United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton attacked possible cuts in Medicaid by the Bush presidential administration, saying the cuts would destroy the safety net that protects the most vulnerable citizens. Medicaid provides health care for low-income families and individuals, including the elderly.
Clinton noted there have been reports that the administration would change Medicaid moneys to block grant funding, which would not grow as the cost of the program might increase. The Senator said this would remove the guts of the program.
SPOUSAL COVERAGE: In the January issue of the Retirees Association of District Council 37 newsletter, the city’s largest municipal union, its president, Stuart Leibowitz, writes:
“The time has come for surviving spouses and domestic partners of active and retired members to continue to be covered by the city’s health insurance program. For too long, the city has been able to compound the survivor’s loss of spouse with the loss of basic health coverage.”
Leibowitz said his organization and DC 37 had made spousal coverage a major legislative priority and is trying to enlist other municipal unions in their campaign.
City retirees have already held discussions with council Finance Committee Chairman Councilmember David Weprin, seeking a cost estimate for the hoped-for coverage, which is necessary before a bill can be introduced in the council to authorize the new coverage.
Leibowitz acknowledged his organization will face a stiff fight from the Bloomberg administration and in the media on the grounds that the city can’t afford the added coverage. But his position is: “This is actually not a new benefit, merely a continuation of an already existing benefit and [...] the benefit is an absolutely necessity for us.”
This being an election year for mayor and other citywide offices for city council seats, as well, Leibowitz said the candidates will be made aware of the spousal coverage issue when they come seeking the retirees’ support.
MEETING: A talk on investments will be given by the Pace University School of Law when the AARP North Flushing Chapter No. 4158 meets next Tuesday at noon at Church-on-the-Hill, 167-07 35th Ave., Flushing.