An Interview with New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Drug Prices, Affordable Housing and More

Posted on 11/30/21 by Donna Liquori

After serving as lieutenant governor since 2015, Kathy Hochul (D) became the 57th governor of New York in August, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) resigned. She spoke with AARP about issues important to older adults. The interview has been edited for clarity and space.  

What are you doing to increase funding for home- and community-based services? 

I’m committed to doing more to strengthen our aging-services network to extend support for those who need it—especially those who rely on family caregivers to help them age in place.

I was proud to announce that $149 million in federal aid has been distributed across the state to help older adults meet basic needs, remain in their homes and communities, and slow the spread of COVID-19. 

My administration is also leading the national effort to modernize the federal Older Americans Act and expand federal investments that support cost-effective services for the aging population.

There are resources available to family caregivers, but a major challenge is that nearly half of these caregivers do not access the help because they don’t know about it. We have state agencies working to raise awareness and educate the public. 

How would you lower prescription drug prices for New Yorkers? 

I consistently hear from older adults who are outraged by the exorbitant, unconscionable prices of prescription drugs. If any New Yorker has experienced a spike in the cost of their prescription drugs, I urge them to reach out to my administration

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) has an easy-to-use Report a Drug Spike online form that will allow us to investigate these increases. 

DFS always reviews the impact of drug prices when considering applications for insurance premium rate increases, and state officials are carefully examining each rate application to ensure that increases are not excessive. 

What will you do to ensure safe and affordable housing for older New Yorkers?

After Hurricane Ida devastated New York City and killed 11 residents living in illegal basement apartments, I visited impacted communities. I will never forget seeing the faces and hearing the heartbreaking stories of people who had been trapped and barely survived the storm. 

Since then, we have taken swift action to secure federal relief funding and open up disaster recovery centers.

We all know there’s an urgent need for more affordable housing in New York. 

New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) administers several programs specifically designed to help make seniors’ housing safe and accessible, including RESTORE (Residential Emergency Services to Offer [Home] Repairs to the Elderly) and Access to Home, which provides financial assistance to make residential units accessible for low- and moderate-income people with disabilities. 

These initiatives have already created or renovated thousands of housing units for seniors, and my administration is committed to building on this success.

What other priorities do you have for older adults?

We are working to increase service access for special populations, such as LGBTQ New Yorkers and cultural and ethnic minorities. We are also looking at lowering the age of caregiver assistance to 50, promoting public-private partnerships to expand caregiving supports through the workforce, implementing a private-pay proposal that would expand access to home- and community-based services, and so much more.

What can the state do to help people afford basic utility services?​

There’s no reason any New Yorker should have their utilities shut off in the middle of a pandemic. This public health crisis is totally unprecedented and everyone, especially older residents, needs to feel safe and secure at home. Thankfully New York state law provides temporary shutoff protections for essential utilities and municipal services during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Also, for qualifying renters, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has an emergency rental assistance program that provides up to 12 months of electric or gas utility bill payments for arrears that have accrued on or after the pandemic shut our state down in March 2020. 

How can we make New York more age friendly?

I was honored to meet with AARP New York representatives a few years ago to celebrate New York’s designation as the first age-friendly state, reaffirming our commitment to older adults. As more and more people live longer lives we need to ensure we are meeting their needs and providing the resources necessary to keep them active in their community. My administration is continuously working to embed age-friendly and livability principles into planning and procurement, and are working with county governments throughout the state to implement similar policies at the local level.

Interview by Donna Liquori, a writer living in Albany.

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