The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) failed to spend millions of dollars on programs geared to support senior citizens, even during the COVID-19 pandemic when the need was greater, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“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.”
NYSOFA’s mission is to help New York residents aged 60 or older be as independent as possible for as long as possible through non-medical support services that help them stay in their homes and avoid higher levels of care and publicly financed care. Programs are administered at the county level through a network of 59 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs).
NYSOFA helps approximately 51,000 elderly New Yorkers access a range of specialized, non-medical in-home and other services, including home health aides, home-delivered meals, nutrition counseling, transportation, and legal services.
In 2015, more than 10,000 older New Yorkers were on waiting lists for these services, prompting the state to earmark $15 million each in 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 to reduce or eliminate this Unmet Need.
DiNapoli’s audit found NYSOFA fell short on delivering those funds when more senior citizens likely needed them. Of the $30 million in Unmet Need appropriations for 2019-20 and 2020-21, a total of $5.9 million allocated to 29 AAAs remained unspent as of July 30, 2021.
NYSOFA also did not revise its allocation plan based on the most current reported Unmet Need data, nor did it make allocation adjustments for those AAAs that did not spend or need the money they were given when it could have been redistributed to areas with higher need.
Auditors also found NYSOFA did not always properly oversee the AAAs’ administration of service programs. For the four years of the audit period, only in 2017-18 did NYSOFA perform on-site evaluations for all 59 AAAs. The number of on-site evaluations performed fell to zero in 2020-21 due to the pandemic, and NYSOFA oversight activities, in lieu of on-site visits, provided limited assurance that AAAs are adequately monitoring their programs.
DiNapoli recommended NYSOFA:
- Maintain documentation to support the allocation of Unmet Need funds among the AAAs and promote transparency;
- Periodically reassess Unmet Need allocations based on the AAAs’ most current information available; and
- Take steps to strengthen monitoring efforts of the AAAs to ensure both program and fiscal reviews are conducted.
DiNapoli noted that NYSOFA officials imposed constraints on the auditors, including months-long delays and denial of access to pertinent information.
NYSOFA officials disagreed with the audit’s findings. Their comments are included in the audit.
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