An audit released Friday by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found the state’s Office for the Aging failed to spend nearly $6 million in available funding to support senior citizens over a two-year period that coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those unspent funds account for nearly 20% of the money lawmakers allocated for the OFA to help thousands of New York’s oldest residents receive the care they need and be able to live in their homes.
“There are older New Yorkers waiting for services to help them remain independent and out of nursing homes, but the Office for the Aging isn’t doing enough to make sure the funding for those services is going out the door,” DiNapoli said. “This is especially disappointing because many seniors have suffered from isolation and restrictions imposed during the pandemic. I urge the Office for the Aging to act on our recommendations. Our seniors deserve better.”
The OFA received $15 million in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years for the program. That money was then divvied up to area agencies for the aging (AAAs). That fundung could provide such services as personal care, transportation, meals and caregiver respite.
The audit found that nearly $1.7 million remained unused in 19-20 and $4.2 million was leftover from the 20-21 funds.
The Erie County AAA in western New York received more than $1.5 million for the two years and spent less than $630,000. New York City received $8.2 million but failed to spend almost $988,000.
Westchester County’s AAA reportedly did not spend a cent of the $951,658 it received for the 20-21 cycle.
The audit determined the OFA did not adjust how it allocated funding based on the most up-to-date unmet need data. It also did not revise allocations based on how agencies spent their funds, keeping it from being redistributed to areas where there was more need.
The comptroller’s office’s recommendations included keeping documentation that supports the allocation amounts for each AAA and reviewing the amounts awarded periodically based on the most current data available.
Officials with the OFA disagreed with the findings in DiNapoli’s report.
“Despite expectations that there would be an increase in in-home services due to the pandemic, in reality, many older adults refused in-home services for fear of contracting the virus from aides (if they were available) and due to increase in informal support from family and friends who were home during the pandemic period,” the office wrote in its response.
However, DiNapoli said his staff conducted interviews with a dozen AAAs and 10 of them noted they experienced an increase in demand for home-delivered meals. In some cases, that demand doubled.
“In reviewing one AAA’s supplemental data sheets, we found 35 individuals were on the wait list for home-delivered meals in 2017-18, but by 2020-21 that number rose to 160 – an increase of 357 percent,” DiNapoli said in response.
This article was originally posted on DiNapoli finds New York Office of the Aging left millions unspent for senior services