Liu Alleges A Landlord Charges Higher Rents Than Allowed Under SCRIE
City Councilmember John Liu (pictured), came to the defense of four seniors in his area last week who alleged that their landlord had been forcing the low income senior citizens to pay higher rents while collecting reimbursements from the city through the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program, or SCRIE.
Under SCRIE, rents for seniors are set at an affordable level, usually one-third of the total household income. Landlords are compensated for the reduction in rent by having their real estate taxes reduced.
Liu (D–Flushing) alleged that in the case of the four seniors, the landlord, Monaco Equities, was “a greedy landlord who preys on low-income senior citizens.”
He called on the Department for the Aging (DFTA) to investigate the situation immediately.
“There has to be safeguards to protect low-income senior citizens from scofflaw landlords such as Monaco Equities,” Liu declared.
MAYOR TOUGHENS SCRIE PROTECTIONS: Meanwhile, at City Hall last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill into law which will offer seniors greater protection under another part of the SCRIE program.
The mayor explained that besides receiving lower rents as landlords get their realty taxes reduced, senior citizens are also eligible for rent reductions resulting from a landlord’s failure to provide services.
But, he continued, such reductions have not always been passed on to tenants.
Under the bill signed by the mayor (Intro.215-A), “When a rent reduction is issued (for failure to provide services) the amount of the reduction must be subtracted from the senior citizen’s rent, rather than subtracted from the abatement.”
The mayor added: “This bill will insure that seniors in the SCRIE program receive the benefit of a temporary rent reduction until their landlord completes necessary repairs.”
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum endorsed the change, as did Queens lawmakers Hiram Monserrate, David Weprin, Leroy Comrie, James Gennaro and Joseph Addabbo Jr.
MAYOR ALSO SIGNS DRUG RX BILL: That same day, Bloomberg also signed into law a bill requiring the city’s health agency to develop a prescription drug discount card program open to all city residents.
The federal government already has a drug discount card program, but it is open only to Medicare members who are over 65 years of age.
Under the program authorized by the bill signed by the mayor, the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) would set up a program for city residents that would enable them to purchase eligible prescription drugs from participating pharmacies at the discount card price or the pharmacies’ customary price, whichever is lower.
The bill further authorized DOHMH to contract with an outside administrator to manage the program, which is to include a mechanism for sharing the rebates received with participating pharmacies, the mayor said.
The mayor said the new program would help approximately 782,000 city residents who lack health insurance, under a survey conducted by DOHMH in 2003. The survey also found that an estimated 908,000 people don’t fill prescriptions because of the cost.
The bill was cosponsored by Queens Councilmembers Eric Gioia, Melinda Katz, Hiram Monserrate, James Gennaro, John Liu, Tony Avella and David Weprin.
GOTBAUM ALERTS SENIORS: Gotbaum urged low-income seniors who quality for the federal drug discount program to enroll by March 31 in order to receive a $600 credit.
To qualify as a low-income person under the program, an individual must have annual income between $8,005 and $12,852; for couples to qualify, combined income must be between $11,701 and $17,253.
All other seniors are eligible for the drug discount card regardless of income level. They can save an estimated 10 to 25 percent through discounts, Gotbaum said.
WEINER: ADD MORE SENIORS TO LIHEAP: With the region having suffered through an unusually cold and snowy winter, Congressmember Anthony Weiner feels that an additional 180,000 low income seniors should be added to the rolls of the federal Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The original program provides that any household whose earnings are 150 percent below the federal poverty line, about $20,000 a year, is eligible for federal energy assistance.
Weiner wants to amend the program to give assistance to seniors who earn between $20,000 and $46,000, the New York State’s median income. Under the change, seniors making up to $46,000 would receive federal assistance in paying their heating bills.