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5 Point Plan for Seniors

Our seniors deserve to age with dignity.

As the seniors population in New York City continues to grow, so do the challenges in their day-to-day lives. Every day, I hear from seniors in our community that they are struggling to afford their rent, to get themselves around the city, or even keep a job if they need to keep working. Our seniors deserve to age with dignity. That’s why I have a five-point plan that directly addresses their most pressing needs. Their well-being and their ability to gracefully live out their golden years will be a top priority when elected to the State Assembly.

1. Keep Seniors In Their Homes

High income tax rates, increasing rents, and gentrification are putting our seniors at risk. We must keep seniors in their homes by improving affordability for fixed-income seniors by creating additional tax credits for individuals over the age of 65 and on a fixed income, residing in New York State. As policy, senior citizens or retired individuals filing a New York State income tax return should qualify for income-appropriate tax benefits and breaks that will reduce tax liability and encourage them to stay in New York. We can’t afford losing older residents because they can’t afford to live in the communities they call home. The tax code needs to be restructured to allow for maximum affordability for seniors on a fixed income.

2. Combat Age Discrimination

According to the AARP, two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work. Surveys show that job seekers over age 50 cite it as a top obstacle to getting hired. In growth industries like high-tech and entertainment, their chances of experiencing age discrimination are even higher. While discrimination, harassment and retaliation are illegal under federal and state laws, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. For example, a recent Vox/ProPublica article showed that I.B.M. employees who experienced age discrimination were bound by forced arbitration and would never be able to sue the company in court. When elected, Cruz plans to introduce legislation to combat age discrimination by banning both Non-Disclosure Agreements and arbitration agreements that allow employers to remove older employees without an ability for legal recourse. Banning these types of agreements will make it much more difficult for employers to remove older workers without cause and will provide employees the opportunity to have their day in court to challenge any instances of age discrimination.

3. Fund Culturally Competent Senior Programs

In New York, thousands of programs help older adults of diverse ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds with limited income and resources, to access benefits that help pay their health care, prescription, housing and food costs. As our population continues to grow and diversify, many program providers are challenged to adapt and expand their cultural competence skills. For example, Spanish-speaking seniors may have significantly different cultural norms depending on their country of origin and religious/political background, despite sharing a common language. Additionally, studies show that LGBT older adults are less likely than their heterosexual peers to access aging services and reach out to providers, senior centers, meal programs and other entitlement programs because they fear discrimination or harassment if their sexual orientations or gender identities become known. When elected to the State Assembly, Cruz will champion the funding of, and/or creation of, culturally-competent senior programs to help deliver services to ensure diverse populations maintain a level of financial stability, remain healthy, and continue to live independently.

4. Reform Access-A-Ride with E-Hail Options

Technology has changed vehicular transportation in New York City. Seniors must be allowed to take full advantage of these improvements to access the fast and reliable services they deserve. When elected, Cruz will introduce legislation to reform Access-A-Ride by allowing individuals to have access to the same fast and reliable service that the private market provides such as Uber/Lyft and other e-hail options.

5. Keep Seniors Safe

Every year, approximately 14,000 people are killed or injured while crossing a street or highway. Studies show that New York City’s senior citizens are being killed and injured in disproportionate numbers because they don’t have enough time to cross the street. Although senior citizens comprise only 13% of the city’s population, they represent 33% of the city’s pedestrian fatalities. When elected, Cruz will work to keep seniors safe by introducing legislation to mandate local municipalities modify traffic signal timing around senior centers, and in areas with dense populations of senior citizens, to reflect slower walking speeds and give seniors a safe refuge on larger streets. Cruz will also advocate for the aggressive deployment of Leading Pedestrian Interval Signals throughout areas with high pedestrian volumes.