Seniors a priority on 2012 agenda

Seniors a priority on 2012 agenda

Federations to focus on transportation for those who don’t drive

Help for senior citizens is high on the 2012 agenda of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations.

One key effort will be to find new funding sources for the Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, or NORCs, that were begun several years ago through now-defunct federal earmark funds.

“Aging-in-place programs are still a high priority,” said Jacob Toporek, the association’s executive director.

“For the time being, earmarks are going to be buried away and not available, but if we can find some ways of paying for this, there is no doubt in the long run we would be saving the state some money through these programs.”

The State Association represents the 12 NJ Jewish federations in their relations with the state and federal governments.

Another key concern in the area of elder care is transportation. Some 20 percent of New Jerseyans over age 65 do not drive.

The association, NJ Transit, and the NJ Foundation for Aging applied for a grant from the federal Center for Senior Transportation “to develop a model that would educate seniors on how to use mass transit,” said Toporek, warning that “there is a lot of competition locally and nationally for that money.”

Toporek has been working with State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Dist. 14) to streamline a public transit system he called “segmented, unorganized, and very uncoordinated from county to county and municipality to municipality. There has to be development of a state senior transportation plan. Right know we are one of nine states with more than one million seniors. In 2025 we are looking at 2.5 million seniors,” he said.

The association is also seeking to change state law to limit the financial liability of volunteer drivers, whose services are relied upon by many social service agencies.

The current law has a “chilling effect, because people don’t want to be held liable if they are doing great volunteer work and get into an accident,” said Toporek. “People are afraid to help deliver meals-on-wheels or take a senior from one area to another.”

The association will continue to push to restore Medicaid cuts and monitor the impact of NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s request to the Obama administration that would reduce Medicaid eligibility for families.

Cutting red tape

Beyond seniors, the State Association is working on these additional items:

Philanthropy: Federations oppose a proposed state rule that would require charities to advise donors that they can direct their gifts toward specific programs. The association is working with the governor’s Red Tape Commission on reducing state regulations for endowments and planned giving programs. “If we are going to have trouble raising money, we want to be in a position to find other ways to strengthen nonprofits,” Toporek said.

Iran: Federations want New Jersey to align with tough federal sanctions against Iran. “We are working on a bill to limit the ability of companies who do business with New Jersey to bid on contracts if they do business with Iran,” Toporek said. The Stop Iran now task force has been working with NJ State Sen. Thomas Kean (R-Dist. 21) and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Dist. 21) to introduce legislation this month.

Christie’s Israel trip: Gov. Christie has announced his intention to visit Israel in the spring. “The trip has not been scheduled yet, but we want to make sure the New Jersey-Israel Commission is made a significant part of the trip. I think the governor is going to have in mind building business with New Jersey as one of his goals,” Toporek said.

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