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Borough’s elders can’t catch a break in latest city, state budget skirmishes

Every time she gets an increase in her Social Security paycheck, Marilyn Woliner, 75, faces a larger increase in rent at her rent-stabilized apartment in the Pomonok housing complex in Kew Gardens Hills.

“Nothing is for nothing,” said the president of the Pomonok Senior Center during a discussion among several seniors about budget cuts Monday. “Everything has gone up. Everything costs more. Nothing has dropped.”

Martha Levine, 84, who shares the position of vice president at the senior center with Florence DeGaglia, said that after she received a $4 increase in her monthly Social Security income this year, she got a $12 monthly increase in rent.

The proposed rise in the city sales tax and the new 50-cent boost in the transit far aren’t making it any easier to get by on a fixed income, the seniors said.

“Many seniors don’t have money to buy anything extra,” DeGaglia said. “They don’t have money for food, and a lot of them are doing without drugs they need.”

While seniors get partial medical coverage after paying $56 per month out of their Social Security checks for Medicare Part A, they still have to fork out additional money for Medicare Part B or for some private insurance plan that covers prescription drugs and the 20 percent of hospital bills that are not covered by Medicare, DeGaglia added.

Levine said the cost of her private Blue Cross/Blue Shield HMO plan was going up to $2,000 per year this year.

“You’ve got to pay out of your own pocket,” she said.

Prescription drug coverage was one of the biggest issues seniors were planning to raise during a rally in Albany that about 20 Pomonok Senior Center regulars planned to attend Wednesday, Woliner said.

Other items seniors were pushing for are the maintenance of funding for senior centers, firehouses, police and youth centers.

“We at Pomonok are not just concerned about Pomonok. We’re concerned with all the problems affecting the city,” Levine said. “If you cut the firemen, then we’re fearful of fires. If you cut policemen, then there’s no protection.”

Recently, due to cuts in funding from the Department of Aging, the senior center raised the suggested donation for its lunches to $1.25 from $1 and to $1 from 75 cents for breakfasts, Woliner said.

But seniors are not complaining, Levine said. They are glad the senior center continues to exist, providing them with a place to go for meals, company and entertainment.

“We’re most concerned for our senior center,” Woliner said. “For many seniors, it’s their home away from home. This is what they come out to. They depend upon the center for a lot of things.”

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by email at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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