AARP on State of State: What Cuomo Missed that Matters to NY's 50+ Voters

Jan 08, 2014, 16:14 ET from AARP New York

Utility Watchdog Needed to Guard against Soaring Utility Bills, Boomers facing Caregiving Crisis in Struggle to Care for Parents

Statement by Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State:

ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 8, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "AARP is disappointed Governor Cuomo made no mention of two key issues for New York's most powerful voting demographic – the 50+ - in his State of the State address: giving residential utility ratepayers a stronger voice in rate hike cases, and increasing supports for unpaid family caregivers to confront a crisis that's headed toward a costly disaster.

"These issues are the bread and butter of the kitchen table economies of many New Yorkers 50 and older, and AARP is hopeful the Governor will tackle those matters in his executive budget proposal later this month.

"For starters, AARP hopes the Governor follows the advice of his own Moreland Commission by proposing an independent utility consumer advocate office – as 40 other states already have. An AARP survey found three quarters of New Yorkers feel residential ratepayers aren't adequately represented when rate hikes are proposed and want a utility consumer advocate office. Meantime 80 percent are concerned about their heating and cooling bills increasing – with good reason, since they already pay the highest average rates in the continental United States.

"We applaud the Governor for proposing a speedier phase-out of the 18A utility surcharge and recommending energy system improvements, but there's much more to be done. Residential ratepayers need a level playing field to compete with well-funded utilities when regulators decide on rate increases.

"The 50+ are struggling to care for aging loved ones, and New York is moving from a caregiving crisis toward a caregiving disaster as an aging population shrinks the number of available caregivers and expands the ranks of those needing care.

"An AARP survey found more than half of New Yorkers expect to be caregivers themselves in the next five years, while over 90 percent favor more funding for home- and community-based services to help people stay in their homes and communities as they age.

"Governor Cuomo should be commended for turning deficit into surplus - but without modest investments to help caregivers keep their frail elderly loved ones at home, he risks skyrocketing Medicaid costs to pay for institutional care.                                                                              

"Supporting caregivers and home- and community-based services would not only allow New Yorkers to age in the setting of their choice, with independence and dignity, but would save the state big money. A $26 million down payment to ensure in-home, non-medical services for all older New Yorkers who need them would keep thousands out of nursing homes and emergency rooms. In addition, a 'navigator' to help New Yorkers find available services for their aging loved ones would also help ease the strain on caregivers, allow older New Yorkers to age at home, and spare taxpayers the huge Medicaid expenses of institutional care.

"AARP applauds Governor Cuomo for announcing some positive initial steps. His proposed 'circuit breaker' could provide needed property tax relief based on need. And his proposal to provide an income tax credit for the many 50+ struggling to pay the landlord could be a big help to New York's renters. We look forward to seeing the details of these proposals in the Governor's executive budget."

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin;; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Espanol, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at