Expansions to EPIC and STAR aid announced for New York seniors

By Michael Riconda

Nanuet – Seniors statewide will have greater acccess to coverage through the enhanced Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program (EPIC) and School Tax Relief Program (STAR) thanks to various fixes to the newly-passed state budget.

At a Senior Advisory Committee meeting at the Nanuet Public Library on April 4, State Sen. David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown) explained the $20 EPIC co-pay cap for those earning under $35,000 per year has been bumped up in the new budget, significantly enhancing its availability for seniors.

“Now if you’re 65 years of age and earn under $75,000, you will be eligible for EPIC,” Carlucci said. “For a minimal investment, we’re able to include a lot more seniors.”

The cap will be even higher to accommodate married seniors, reaching up to $100,000 for couples. Lower income thresholds might also be available for EPIC beneficiaries as well.

Carlucci also announced changes for the enhanced STAR program. The current eligibility cutoff stands at $81,900 in earnings per year, but a cost of living adjustment will soon be available to ensure the value of property tax breaks is protected from inflation. Wiowers will also become eligible for the same benefits as married households.

Property taxes have become an increasingly visible issue as the state seeks to encourage curb spending by municipalities and residents call for greater tax controls. Though benefits such as STAR soften the blow of property taxes, Carlucci argued local governments are largely responsible for cutting enough to stay within the cap and lowering taxes in the long-run.

“Now we have to work with municipalities to make sure we stay within that two percent,” Carlucci said.

Rockland County and a number of its municipalities have surpassed the tax cap multiple times over the past few years. Countywide, only Orangetown, Stony Point, Sloatsburg and Montebello managed to stay within the cap for 2014.

EPIC and STAR benefits are now available for eligible seniors. EPIC applications can be found online by going to https://www.health.ny.gov/health_care/epic. STAR applications are available at http://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/apply.htm.