“We urge the new administration to seriously consider the #JustPay Human Services Council’s campaign, and to ensure that all exploited New York workers, who perform life-saving critical work on a daily basis, make a living.”
Our new mayor, administration and city council took office at a challenging time for New York City – but especially for our city’s seniors. The latest wave of COVID-19 has continued to affect New Yorkers disproportionately, causing hospitalization and death in the worst cases, and leading to ongoing social isolation for many others.
When our newly elected representatives talk about corona virus recovery, it is imperative that they prioritize the needs of older New Yorkers. At Encore Community Services, we see these needs closely and work daily to maintain healthy, safe and connected seniors in the community.
When the city closed in the spring of 2020, we received an immediate explosion in requests for meals to the house. We made every stop to meet this demand while the City created “Get Food NYC,” an emergency food program that has served New Yorkers of all ages, including tens of thousands of seniors. When the program ended this fall, 19,000 seniors continued to rely on food from this program. These meals are now delivered by senior service providers, including Encore, as part of a recovery meal plan that is due to expire in June.
Our city needs to think now about how to meet the long-term nutritional needs of older New Yorkers, which even before the plague were significant – 1 in 4 adults living at home was at risk of starvation.
Although the plague has put the vulnerability of older New Yorkers in a particularly sharp light, their needs have been growing for years. The challenges facing older New Yorkers will only continue to grow, as the older population is one of the fastest growing demographics in New York. And although living in New York with a steady income has always been a challenge, future seniors have lower overall savings and are less likely to receive a pension. In general, the present and future elderly are less stable than they were years ago – and the number of people in this category is growing.
In New York City, 1.24 million people are over the age of 65, and in the last 10 years, that number has grown 12 times faster than the city’s under-65 population. Growing.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit sector providing services on behalf of the municipality has had to deal with many issues in the contracting process, including a developed bidding process, contract delays and being asked to provide services without signing a contract, as well as late payments and dealing with unfunded seats. The result is serious cash flow problems for nonprofits, and wages at the poverty level and lack of employment stability for vital workers.
We must do the right thing by the elderly of our city, and we need the city to do the right thing by associations to achieve this. Implementing the increased meal reimbursement rates promised by the Department of Aging in December is a great starting point, but we need to pay more attention to older New Yorkers and invest in the organizations, and vital employees who try to serve them.
It is imperative that the basic city fund the continuation of meals for the thousands of New York City residents in the recovery meal program, and many more who are aging in the shade. We urge the new administration to seriously consider the #JustPay Human Services Board campaign, and ensure that all exploited New York workers, who perform life-saving critical work on a daily basis, make a living.
By all indications, Mayor Eric Adams and the new City Council representatives are very concerned about both the workers and the vulnerable New Yorkers. We hope they will take the opportunity to address the issues facing senior services, and create a New York inclusive where we all have the opportunity to grow old with dignity and self-reliance, surrounded by a safe and caring community.
Jeremy Kaplan is the senior director of Encore Community Services.