May 26, 2010
New Jersey‚Äôs budget is in the midst of a heated debate. Governor Chris Christie has proposed the new budget and made many cuts. There have been many groups affected by the cuts that have reacted with press releases, meetings and rallies. NJFA and its partners have done much research and speaking out about the impact on our most vulnerable populations, including seniors.
Some of the proposed cuts included PAAD, NJ‚Äôs prescription drug assistance program, seniors would have been forced to pay a $310 deductible and face a co pay increase for brand name drugs from $7 to $15. Thanks to the efforts of many groups, the message of the impact of these cuts got to the legislators and they were successful in getting Gov. Christie to remove those cuts from the budget and keep the PAAD program the way it had been.
While that victory feels pretty good there are still many issues regarding the budget and seniors. The Senior Freeze program, a property tax reimbursement program, will not be given out in 2011, that is approximately $1,000 that many low to middle income seniors rely on to help make ends meet. Another item in the proposed budget that will affect the low income senior in NJ is the addition of a $5 co pay for medical day care services with a monthly cap of $25 and the elimination of medication administration as a criteria for medical day care attendance. Many caregivers rely on medical day care as part of a senior or disabled persons care plan, this will be a hardship for those who need it most.
A decrease in the provider reimbursement rate for the PCA program, a home care program that services 29,000 disabled persons and seniors, has been a hot topic in regard to Gov. Christie‚Äôs budget. The cut, which decreases the rate by approximately $2, has been the subject of budget hearing testimony due to the fact that this will cause many providers to withdraw from this vital service, leaving many clients in need without services.
With the Elder Index NJFA highlighted an issue regarding some of our most vulnerable seniors and that is the NJ SSI State Supplement which is just $31 a month and has been since 1986, a payment that is meant to help disabled persons make ends meet on a fixed income and just doesn‚Äôt cut it at that level. Recently a budget item has come to our attention that is equally troubling, the spousal supplement for caregivers of disabled persons is due to be eliminated in the proposed budget. Again, many of the cuts in this budget are affecting seniors, the disabled and their caregivers, many of whom are already living on the edge.
NJFA and many of our partner organizations have put out press releases, op eds and fact sheets, sending them to newspapers, legislators and community groups, hoping to get the word out about the proposed budget cuts and their impact on seniors. NJFA encourages everyone to contact their representatives in the legislature to make their voice heard.
You can find contact information¬†for your local representatives at www.njleg.org