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Schumer Reveals: 50,000+ Long Island Seniors Could Be Homebound Because Critical Aging In Place Program is in Danger of Expiring

LongIsland.com

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the federal DOT to provide approximately $1 million in federal funding for North Hempstead’s Project Independence, a vital transportation program serving over 50,000 seniors across Nassau County.

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Long Island, NY - June 30, 2015 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide approximately $1 million in federal funding for North Hempstead’s Project Independence, a vital transportation program serving over 50,000 seniors across Nassau County. Schumer helped officials begin the program several years ago and says it is essential to Nassau’s seniors. However, right now, the crucial project’s funds will only fund its services until the end of the year. However, Nassau officials are hoping a grant proposal they have just submitted to the federal government will keep the program fully operational. Specifically, “Project Independence” provides transportation to supermarkets, doctor appointments and other senior events through the Town of North Hempstead. The program also provides in-home nursing visits, and other home care and case worker needs to seniors. Because of this program, seniors are able to stay in their own homes, as opposed to entering assisted living or nursing home facilities. This aging in place concept saves the federal government millions a year. Moreover, with the recent shutdown of the Federal Employment and Guidance Services (FEGS)—a local nonprofit—Project Independence has become even more crucial, as it has taken on approximately 2,000 North New Hyde Park residents who once relied on FEGS. Schumer urged the DOT to renew their commitment to Project Independence and approve the grant, so that thousands of seniors won't find themselves homebound or forced to begin planning for costly care that would minimize their quality of life while costing the government millions.

Schumer was joined by North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and seniors.  

“It may sound simple but what is going on here with Project Independence is so much more than a ride—it’s a lifeline,” said Schumer. “Thousands of seniors in the Town of North Hempstead rely on Project Independence, as it provides an added comfort of knowing they can live independently at home while having access to much-needed transportation options. We all know that the Town’s suburban geography can often make it difficult for seniors to get to the doctor or to the nearby supermarket but that doesn’t mean seniors want to move out of their home and into an assisted living facility or nursing home. This federal funding is crucial, as it will help make sure Project Independence has the resources it needs to succeed and continue for the next three years and I will do everything in my power to make sure we secure this funding.” 

The Town of North Hempstead is comprised of 30 villages and 17 hamlets; it is the seventh largest municipality in New York State and occupies 58 square miles. Seniors make up 23 percent of the Town’s population. To date, a total of 155,350 rides were provided via the Project Independence senior transportation program; specifically, 101,722 medical and 53,628 food shopping rides.

The Town of North Hempstead’s Project Independence aims to support the aging in place of seniors with an emphasis on preserving each resident’s independence, dignity and safety. Overall, the Project Independence program connects seniors to critical services by working side by side with the Town’s 311 Call Center. Project Independence’s transportation program is costly. Specifically, it is made up of 1) mobility management staff, who counsel the Town’s senior residents on all transportation options; 2) contracted taxi companies who transport seniors to medical appointments—rides are based on the Medicaid rate, a rider pays half, rides are available 7 days a week; 3) food shopping, which is no charge to the rider and are available 2 days a week and drivers assist with carrying shopping bags to the door; 4) the Town’s senior busing, transport residents to senior organizations, nutrition sites and other programs. The senior transportation services are a priority within the town because they help meet the unmet needs of the large aging population.

Earlier this year, Project Independence announced that it would begin providing services to North New Hyde Park seniors who were once helped by the non-profit agency, FEGS, which recently shut down. The Town of North Hempstead will now provide services to the approximately 2,000 additional seniors so that they can continue receiving critical services that allow them to ‘age in place.’

The Town of North Hempstead is applying to the U.S. DOT FTA section 5310 program, which works to increase mobility for seniors and persons with disabilities by providing funds for programs to service the special needs to transit dependent populations beyond the most traditional public transportation services. This FTA award would provide nearly $1 million in public assistance to the Town of North Hempstead for Project Independence. Schumer is pushing DOT to provide this $1 million to North Hempstead, as it will allow the program to continue for the next three years. Schumer said this funding will go a long way, as it will help save the feds money overtime because it means that seniors can age in place and not move to senior centers or nursing homes.