Local seniors gathered inside the Town of Cheektowaga's Senior Center on Broadway were visited Wednesday by special guests. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and State Assemblymember Monica Wallace joined Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski to explain where millions of dollars were set aside in the new state budget to support New York's more elderly citizens.
Hochul said New York has become the first state in the union to become "age friendly."
"We're requiring all of our state agencies to make sure their policies are adaptable to seniors, whether it's more access, the importance of technology and how we can have more training for seniors to know how to communicate with their grandkids on computers and laptops," Hochul said. "We're doing a lot in a holistic approach to help people age in place and age well in Western New York."
Wallace, who sits on the Assembly's Committee on Aging, called the 2018 budget good for seniors, overall.
"We allocated $31.2 million for the Community Services for the Elderly programs, which support personal care, home-delivered meals like Meals On Wheels, transportation services and senior centers like this one here," Wallace said.
Twenty million dollars are dedicated to capital funding for the establishment of 1,000 new assisted-living program beds in underserved areas.
The budget also includes a total $4 million investment in Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) and Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NNORCs), which provide seniors with support services including health monitoring, case management and social activities designed to decrease the need for "unnecessary" hospital and nursing home care.
The budget also allocates $100,000 for the Statewide Action Council Patients' Rights Hotline, $86,000 for the Foundation for Senior Citizens Home Sharing and Respite Program and $250,000 for the Older Adult Technology Center, which helps seniors better understand today's technology to remain in contact with younger loved ones, such as grandchildren.
The budget also creates a new alternative retirement program available to individuals whose employers do not already offer such a plan. The New York State Secure Choice Savings program is a voluntary payroll deduction Roth program. The fund will be managed by an investment firm, overseen by the state. Employers will have no financial obligation and will only be responsible for taking care of the payroll deductions.
"Unfortunately, we see too often that hard-working men and women get to a retirement age and do not have sufficient savings to really live the lifestyle that they need to in their golden years," Wallace said. "Half of New York's private-sector employees, ages 18 to 64, work for businesses that do not have retirement plans."