AARP Fights For Low-Income New Yorkers To Get Benefits They're Owed

Posted on 11/30/22 by Donna Liquori

Are you getting all the benefits you can from the state?

Plenty of New Yorkers aren’t, which is why AARP in 2023 will focus on helping move those dollars from state coffers into your pocket.

“There’s a huge opportunity—and challenge—here to get a lot of money that’s already been allocated to people who need it,” says David McNally, AARP New York’s government affairs and advocacy director. It’s one of the top legislative priorities for AARP next year, along with
support for caregivers and other bills to help those 50 and older.

In the 2022 legislative session, AARP advocated for a data- matching bill that would have automatically linked applicants for public assistance and other services to a state energy affordability program that lowers residents’ gas and electric bills.

That measure passed in the State Assembly but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee.

State Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee and sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, says he plans to reintroduce it early in the 2023 session.

“We have been coming out of a pandemic that has threatened both our lives and our livelihoods,” he says. Much of people’s attention was on their physical health—but financial health was at risk, too, Parker adds. “So through no fault of their own, there were people who had no income, no ability to pay their bills, including their utility bills.”

The proposed data matching would be similar to how the New York City Human Resources Administration matches clients applying for services—like veterans programs and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—with the energy program.

Energy tops 2023 efforts

Laurie Wheelock, executive director of the nonprofit Public Utility Law Project of New York Inc., says that one of the fastest ways to increase enrollment in the state’s energy assistance program would be to require each county social services department to run data matches at least twice a year. Parker’s bill would mandate semiannual matching—and “help as many low-income New Yorkers as possible receive this vital financial assistance for their electric and gas bills,” Wheelock says.

Beth Finkel, AARP New York state director, hopes to push the state to use data matching for all benefits available to low-income New Yorkers through programs such as SNAP or rental assistance.

“That needs to be the goal of New York state government: to figure out a way to make sure that people who are eligible for benefits are connected to them in an easy, smooth manner,” she says. “Those people will have more resources available to them so that they can live their lives with dignity.”

When the Legislature begins its session in January, AARP New York will advocate on several other issues. Among them:

  • Increased funds for caregiver support and for home- and community-based services.
  • Legislation to allow for easier approval of properly regulated accessory dwelling units—such as in-law apartments—statewide.
  • Lowering the cost of prescription drugs, including using Canadian prices as the maximum paid in New York.

AARP’s Legislative Patrol team needs volunteers to help buttonhole lawmakers in Albany.

Helen Schnitzer, 80, of Colonie, began volunteering on legislative efforts in 2019. She’s excited to get back to the state capitol in her AARP shirt.

“Just seeing all these red shirts walking around the capitol—they know we’re here, and they know we vote, and they’re going to listen to us,” she says.

Interested? Find details at aarp.org/volunteer.

Donna Liquori is a writer living in Albany.

Original Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage — AARP

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This story is provided by AARP New York. Visit the AARP New York page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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