Former Senator Continues Crusade For SAA – Opinion
I spent my career advocating for seniors and working to improve our quality of life. Whether by passing legislation in Tallahassee, working with clients daily on estate planning, or serving as Florida’s top watchdog for guardianship services, I have spent decades speaking up for retirees. I was honored to be named to the Senior Citizen Hall of Fame, recognized nationally for my legislative work on behalf of senior citizens.
At 78 years old, I am not done speaking up for seniors and the issues important to us. That is why I am proud to launch a new effort, Seniors Across America, to give voice to the concerns of older Americans at all levels of government.
Some may wonder if enough organizations to speak for seniors already exist. But in today’s increasingly partisan political world, seniors can feel disenfranchised if organizations they trust get too political. We need not be partisan to speak up for seniors – we just need a little more common sense to find common ground and common cause.
For example, as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to surge, all eyes must turn to our nursing homes. Here in Florida, an outstanding effort was made to vaccinate nursing home residents. Florida lawmakers took important steps this year to increase the number of staff available to care for residents, as well. But more nursing home workers must be vaccinated, or else infections will spread.
Not to mention, at the height of hurricane season, compliance with the state’s nursing home generator rules should be at the forefront of our minds. While almost every nursing home and assisted living facility now has a generator in place to protect against a power outage, there are still a handful of facilities, mostly in South Florida, that do not. Four years after Hurricane Irma caused the death of 12 nursing home residents, that is unacceptable. We need to finish the job and make sure the remaining holdouts comply with these critical generator rules.
Nationwide, seniors face tremendous financial pressure on, well, everything. If inflation continues, seniors and their fixed incomes will be hardest hit. Consider, food prices rose 2.2% over the past year, while gas prices rose 56%. Overall, the May consumer price index rose 5%. The price of basic necessities keeps climbing. Seniors cannot afford it.
Especially when the cost to keep the roof over our heads or drive our cars already stretch fixed incomes to the brink. Floridians dodged a bullet thanks to Governor DeSantis’s veto of an auto insurance bill that could have raised rates by 50%. Homeowners, however, did not fare as well. A January 2021 report by Risk Placement Services estimated American homeowners could see rate increases up to 15% this year. The problem is far more acute in Florida – turn on the local news to find story after story of insurance bills rising by thousands of dollars. Some rate relief is coming, but a federal judge seems likely to strike down a portion of Florida’s property insurance reform law regarding roofing solicitors, jeopardizing important protections for seniors.
Seniors have more to worry about than unscrupulous roofing solicitors showing up at their front doors. There are also contractors pushing unaffordable PACE loans to seniors promising deep discounts on their utility bills. Seniors, welcome renewable energy, so long as it is truly dependable and does not cause rates shifts for those who can least afford it. In Florida and California, PACE loans have saddled seniors with rooftop solar energy panels that they cannot afford. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver did an excellent expose on this subject recently. Our seniors need protection from these door-to-door scams, not just here in Florida, but around the country.
If speaking up for good healthcare, ensuring retirees can afford their bills, and protecting the elderly are important to you, then Seniors Across America wants to be your voice. I will stand up to special interests and be an advocate for seniors so we can enjoy our golden years with dignity and peace.
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