On Thursday, Dec. 5, State Senator Alex Bergstein (D-Greenwich), hosted a roundtable discussion on issues impacting seniors at Greenwich Town Hall with guest speakers with expertise on a range of issues including health care, prescription drug costs and long-term care.
“The rising cost of health care impacts everyone,” said Bergstein, “and particularly our most vulnerable citizens. I am deeply concerned about the current trajectory – costs are already the highest in the world, and they keep rising. Americans deserve a real solution to this problem.”
Joining Bergstein to discuss these issues was state Senator Matt Lesser (D-Middletown), Dr. Claudia Gruss of the Connecticut Medical Society, Anna Doroghazi, AARP Connecticut’s Associate State Director of Advocacy and Outreach, and Steven Hernandez, Executive Director of the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity.
In addition to addressing the rising cost of care, Bergstein presented some good news for seniors.
“One of the top legislative priorities for the AARP in Connecticut this year was passage of the Paid Family Medical Leave Act,” she said, “because the AARP recognizes that family caregivers are severely impacted. Without this policy, family caregivers often are forced to choose between their jobs and their aging parent, which is a choice no one should have to make.”
The PFML Act passed the legislature earlier this year and is entirely paid for by employees, not employers.
Other good news for seniors from the 2019 legislative session included tax cuts. Bergstein noted that the legislature extended tax exemptions for Social Security and pension and annuity income.
“Though the governor’s initial proposed budget eliminated these exemptions, we fought to keep them and succeeded,” she noted.
Beginning in the 2019 tax year, full Social Security income tax deductions are available for single filers with $75,000 in income and joint filers with $100,000 in income. Taxpayers with incomes above these thresholds qualify for a 75% deduction. The biennial state budget also preserves a phased-in tax cut on pension and annuity income so those with incomes less than $75,000 (single filers) or $100,000 (joint filers) will receive full exemption by 2025.
“Seniors with limited income have earned this protection,” said Bergstein. “They have already contributed so much to the state of Connecticut – by paying income and property taxes for years. They deserve our support and appreciation.”
In addition to hosting the roundtable discussion at Town Hall, Bergstein also visited with seniors at various locations throughout the day.
In the morning, she participated in a legislative panel hosted by the Southwestern Connecticut Agency on Aging in Stamford. And in the afternoon, she visited seniors at the Greenwich Senior Center as well as the River House Adult Day Center. She heard directly from seniors what their biggest concerns are.
“The cost of living in Connecticut is the top issue for seniors, and this includes many factors – taxes, housing, services, health care, and other matters. My colleagues and I are working hard to bring these costs down so that everyone in our state can feel safe and secure,” she said.
Bergstein invites anyone living in the 36th State Senate District – which covers Greenwich, New Canaan and Stamford – to contact her at email@example.com to discuss these issues further.