NJAAW News and Resources
Feb. 16, 2022
NJ Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee
Long-Term Care and Housing Affordability
Testimony by Cathy Rowe, Executive Director
February 3, 2022
NJAAW has focused on the issues and challenges surrounding housing for older adults since our early days in the 1990s. It is the biggest investment people make not only in the roof over their heads but in how and where they live their lives. We realize that many factors affect someone's choices and options for housing and that those options begin to narrow with age and income. 
We also want to acknowledge that many older people of color, due to inherent racism and discrimination in housing, were not able or allowed to purchase homes when they were younger. Many are facing long-term consequences in that they were not able to build equity and do not have a house to sell in order to pay for their needs in retirement, and are now facing housing challenges and financial issues that they did not cause. It is imperative that fairness is the cornerstone of housing, not only in senior housing but housing for all ages.
NJ's shift in demographics
As you know, NJ is, like many areas of the country, seeing a shift in demographics. There is a growing number of older adults and increased longevity. Simply put, more people are meeting our definitions of "older," and they are older for longer than ever before. This trend will continue for the next 40 years. We need to prepare now. An aging population needs not only official “affordable housing” programs, but housing that is affordable as well as appropriate.

An important first step to keep housing affordable in NJ is property tax relief. In many NJ towns, property taxes have close to doubled in the past 20 years, while pensions and social security did not. We fully supported the recent expansion of the Senior Freeze property tax program and urge you to take the next steps to make it easier for people to access this program. NJAAW supports the Senate’s bill S259 that converts Senior Freeze reimbursement into credit applied directly to property tax bills, as well as proposed Senate Bill S1024, which would increase gross income tax credit for homestead property taxes paid from $50 to $200. We urge the Assembly and this Committee to support these measures.

Modifying property taxes for older adults
Other creative strategies to modifying property taxes for older adults – and I must emphasize that for the most part, residents over the age of 60 leave a very light tax footprint on county and municipal resources – would be to postpone property tax increases for adaptations and renovations that enable an older person to remain in their home until the sale of the property. This would enable people to adapt their homes and stay in their communities instead of move.

In our housing session [which began Feb. 2], there was a lot of discussion on how to make adaptations that allow people to live safely as they age. An important point to consider is that home assistive devices can be costly and are therefore not accessible to people on limited incomes. We need to push for systems that support this type of equipment and renovation as a standard rule for all housing development, including affordable housing development.

In tandem with any discussion on helping people to stay in their homes or communities, we must include home- and community-based services. Their availability and affordability allow people to remain in their homes – whether renting, owned, public or private.

The direct-care workforce
NJAAW will be focusing on the direct-care workforce this year, which has been challenged by COVID at the same time we expect increased need. Expanding the direct-care workforce will allow residents to stay in the homes and communities they choose and that they love.

We applaud the state’s support of direct-care workers in LTC facilities through the wage increase, and fully support expanding similar strategies for the development and retention of well-trained direct-care workers in non-institutional and home-based settings.
What does it mean to age today – and to do so with finesse? Author Mary Flett, PhD, a clinical psychologist who worked extensively with aging adults, and a trained stand-up comic, shares her views with Cathy Rowe, DrPH, on Aging Insights TV. She also leads a guided meditation at the end of the show.
NJ Department of Health provides in-home COVID-19 vaccine appointments

The NJ Department of Health is accepting requests for in-home COVID-19 vaccine appointments. People unable to leave home to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, or who are the healthcare provider or family caregiver of someone who is homebound, may request an in-home vaccination appointment by completing a form at covid19.nj.gov/homeboundvax. To complete the survey by phone, call the NJ COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center at 1-855-568-0545. 
JFSCNJ's new personal care management program
for Union and Somerset counties

Grants from the Union County Division on Aging and the Grotta Fund for Senior Care are enabling JFSCNJ to offer the services of a personal case manager to Union and Somerset County adults, ages 60+, who are struggling with housing, health issues and food insecurity. The personal case manager will coordinate access to a wide variety of programs and entitlements. For more information, email Christopher Plaugic or call 908-352-8375.
Controlling prescription drug costs

NJJAW was present at the Governor's Feb. 14 announcement of a 4-part plan to control prescription drugs costs in NJ. Proposed by Senator Troy Singleton and Assemblyman John McKeon, this innovative strategy will include:

  1. Cap out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs used to treat chronic conditions, including asthma inhalers and insulin for diabetics
  2. Oversight of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to prohibit bad practices
  3. A system to collect and analyze data, focusing on senior citizens
  4. Bringing NJ FamilyCare to join a multistate pool that will reduce overall costs.

Senator Singleton stated that NJ is more unaffordable than other states, and nowhere is that more pronounced than in prescription drug costs. Assemblyman McKeon noted that this is unsustainable.

NJAAW applauds this significant progress in tackling soaring Rx costs and will support the work of the Governor and legislature as they put this plan into action. For full details, click here.

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Strengthening/expanding NJ Family Care services

In other news, Acting Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman has announced federal approval for plans to strengthen and expand home and community-based NJ FamilyCare services for older adults and individuals with disabilities, including plans to develop affordable housing for members across the state.

Among the approved plans are to invest $634 million in state and federal money to bolster home and community-based Medicaid services for older adults and individuals with disabilities; the development of 100 deed-restricted, subsidized and accessible rental units for NJ FamilyCare beneficiaries across the state, and a $2 million investment in person-centered planning, which is an important tool in enabling and assisting people to identify and access the services and supports they need. For more information, click here.
Community Planning Associate position opening at New Jersey Future

Our partner in age-friendly community initiatives, NJ Future, is seeking a Community Planning Associate “…to join our planning team as we expand our strategic assistance program to foster vibrant downtowns and livable communities for everyone.” For the full job description, click here.
From Generations United: Diverse Intergenerational Programs survey

As part of Generations United’s Diverse Intergenerational Programs Initiative, GU is conducting a survey to identify and learn more about programs and activities that connect younger and older people. They are especially interested in programs that engage or seek to engage participants from diverse communities. Completed surveys will be entered into a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card. Learn more and take the survey here.
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