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Legislation (S.78-A/A.7855) Clarifies the Federal Older Americans Act Phrase “Greatest Social Need” To Strengthen State Service Programs for LGBTQ Older Adults Lacking in Traditional Sources of Support and Caregiving
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation (S.78-A/A.7855) that amends the program administered by New York State’s Office for the Aging to support older New Yorkers. This law clarifies that the Older Americans Act of 1965, which directs funding and services based on “greatest social need”, includes consideration of barriers or isolation caused by racial and ethnic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or HIV status. These factors are non-economic factors that can impact an older adult’s ability to perform normal daily tasks and this bill will ensure that these factors are used to direct services to support each individual’s capacity to live independently.
“As Governor, one of my top priorities is making sure all New Yorkers receive the care and help they need regardless of their identity,” Governor Hochul said. “There is drastic inequity in physical and mental care for older adults in the LGBTQ community, and this legislation is an important step in addressing those inequities while helping ensure LGBTQ older New Yorkers receive the same respect and support as anyone else in the state.”
Currently, Federal law requires that state plans that administer Older Americans Act (OAA) programs and services target populations in rural areas, with several disabilities, with limited English proficiency, with Alzheimer’s and related disorders, those at risk for institutional placement, those with the greatest economic need, and those with the greatest social need.
According to SAGE, (Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders), LGBTQ older adults often lack traditional sources of support and caregiving, tend to have poorer physical and mental health and higher rates of poverty than their non-LGBTQ counterparts, and face pronounced cultural and social isolation as a result of decades-long experience of real and perceived discrimination.
The federal OAA of 1965 does not explicitly include LGBTQ older adults in its guidance. Through the law’s guidance, states can include LGBTQ older adults in their state plans for administering OAA programs and services, and this legislation will codify their inclusion, as well as include older adults living with HIV as populations of “greatest social need” in New York State’s Elder Law. New York will join other states that already recognize the unique social needs of this population such as California and Illinois, and it will ensure that New York State is providing LGBTQ older adults with the services and supports that they need as they age.
State Senator Brad Hoylman said, “The federal Older Americans Act is one of the most important vehicles for providing our elders with “the greatest social need” the necessary resources needed to lead dignified lives, and we must ensure New York administers the Act holistically. Our bill (S.78A) with Assembly Member Bronson ensures non-economic factors — such as physical or mental disability, language barriers, and cultural or social isolation caused by racial and ethnic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or HIV status — are considered by the State. Thank you to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for bringing this bill to a vote and Governor Hochul for signing our bill into law today.”
Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson said, “I want to thank my colleague, Senator Hoylman and Governor Hochul for ensuring this important legislation becomes law. The Older American’s Act affects everyone—older adults, people who help support them, and all of us who hope to one day grow old. It also underpins a promise to preserve the right to live independently, with dignity, making everyday decisions according to our individual preferences and goals across our lifespan. This promise is more important than ever, and this legislation will help fulfill that promise to many more New Yorkers.”
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