Calls for Just Pay and Equity for Aging

Bay Ridge Center’s Todd W. Fliedner spoke on the steps of City Hall at the May 5, 2022, Aging Advocacy Day organized by LiveOn NY. Here's what he said:

I’d like to begin by thanking Allison, Jenna, Kaitlyn and the entire crew from LiveON for inviting me to speak and for their TIRELESS advocacy efforts on behalf of older adult providers in NYC.

Bay Ridge Center serves Community Districts 10 and 11 in Southwest Brooklyn. For 30 years BRC has prepared and delivered hot, home-cooked meals to older homebound adults daily. We currently serve 600 residences. Preparation and packaging of these meals is headed by our Food Service Manager Omar Williams, a 16 year veteran of BRC.

We are also fortunate to have Kim Laraichi as its Director of Home Delivered Meals (HDM), an individual with 21 years seniority who began as a deliverer for the same program she now supervises. Her knowledge and insight from two decades of experience have been critical in the ongoing success of our HDM program.

Of the network of services Bay Ridge Center provides, our Home Delivered Meals program is the organization’s unsung hero.

As any HDM provider knows our services constitutes so much more than a meal. Our services include a vital safety check on those most vulnerable in our community who have little or no family support systems.

All of our drivers and deliverers have stories to tell that dramatize the impact of their presence in the lives of our isolated homebound older adults. I’d like to briefly share one such story.

Upon delivering a meal to an elderly blind client, HDM staff member Jo Ann Jarush observed that rags the woman had placed on a space heater had begun to smolder. JoAnn’s presence that day may very well have saved the woman’s life.

The majority of BRC’s seasoned, reliable and dedicated home delivered workforce are retired from career positions and have chosen to work for BRC’s HDM program because of their true commitment to serving older adults in the community in which they live. Most of our drivers and delivery staff live locally, and 60% have over five year’s tenure in their positions.

The good will of our HDM staff was exemplified throughout the pandemic when they performed the duties of their job without fail and at personal risk to their health. They did it at the embarrassing low rate of $15.30 per hour, which they have been paid since the last cost-of-living increase of 2% in 2019.

Good will only goes so far.

Bay Ridge Center needs the financial resources to competitively compensate our meals staff for their loyalty and hard work and to safeguard the agency’s risk of losing their service to the community.

Our agency needs enhanced reimbursement for fuel prices that have increased 40% in the past four months; food costs that have increased 7.9% in the past year — the largest jump since 1981; and new vehicles to replace our aging fleet, which has been on the road for the past 8 years.

I respectfully call on Mayor Adams and his administration to include $42.7 million in funding for home-delivered meals, including $30 million for Recovery Meals in this year’s budget.

See more highlights on the LiveOn NY website

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