Lisa Newcomb headshot
Lisa Newcomb

An industry expert is calling on the New York Legislature to reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2021-2022 state budget amendments, which she said contain “unnecessary and punitive” measures against assisted living providers.

“It was shocking to see this scourging punishment at a time when assisted living providers and staff have fought valiantly and tirelessly to protect their residents during this pandemic nightmare at great peril to their emotional, mental and financial well-being,” said Lisa Newcomb, executive director of the Empire State Association of Assisted Living. “Instead of the praise and honor that our provider members and their staff so clearly deserve, the governor is inflicting upon them harsh punishment.

“Why are we being attacked?”

Cuomo’s budget multiplies daily penalties tenfold — from $1,000 to $10,000 per day. It also eliminates a provider’s ability to rectify minor violations without a concurrent fine. That, Newcomb asserted, means that submitting one daily survey one minute late automatically subjects a provider to a potential fine of $10,000.

The New York Department of Health, Newcomb said, already has broad fining authority under the public health law and exercises that authority “with zeal.” The proposed increased financial penalties, coupled with an inability to correct minor infractions, have assisted living providers concerned about their ability to keep their doors open, she added.

The state attorney general’s January report on nursing homes’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic did not mention any allegations of wrongdoing by assisted living providers, Newcomb pointed out. Despite that, Newcomb said, the state has imposed the same mandates on senior living as it has on nursing homes — with virtually no funding assistance. 

“We can only surmise, to use the governor’s own words, it is just politics,” Newcomb said. “This action is not only bad public policy; it is disheartening in that it fundamentally fails to appreciate all this industry has been through.”

Cuomo also is proposing the elimination of the Enhancing the Quality of Adult Living (EQUAL) program, which Newcomb called “the only source of modest state funding the state makes available to adult care facilities that serve indigent seniors.” The funding allowed communities to make building improvements and create resident programing.