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Deficit Debate: Will NY Grandparents be Forced Back to Work?

July 15, 2011

NEW YORK - It isn't a pretty picture - grandparents being forced back to work to help support their grandchildren - but local advocates say it could happen to plenty of New Yorkers if Congress decides to cut key programs as part of negotiations to reduce the federal deficit.

Michelle Bauer, chief operating officer for the National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights, says when Medicare and federal health insurance programs are put on the chopping block, the cuts affect vital programs that support the growing number of New York grandparents who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their grandchildren.

"Especially when they cut Health Insurance Programs for children, the S-CHIP program; we're not just forcing grandparents to go back to work to pay for themselves. We're forcing them to go back to work to pay for their grandchildren's medical bills."

Gerard Wallace, director of the New York State Kinship Care Navigator, says it is already a struggle for many families headed by grandparents.

"Twenty-one percent of grandparent caregivers are at or below the poverty level. So, it's disproportionately going to affect grandparent caregivers if there's anything impacting them where they lose a disability, Social Security, or public assistance payment."

And thousands of New York grandparents have already lost some assistance as a result of state budget cuts, he adds.

"Thirteen of the 21 kinship programs across the state have closed. These kinds of programs that are not mandated are the most likely to suffer."

Republican lawmakers point to June's lackluster jobs report as a sign that the nation should not raise taxes when the economy appears to be losing traction. Bauer points out that cuts to entitlement programs only produce short-lived savings, because they often end up forcing kids into more expensive state foster care.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY