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Older New Yorkers who aren't white hit harder by coronavirus pandemic, research shows

Vehicles are loaded with food from Long Island

Vehicles are loaded with food from Long Island Cares at one of their facilities in Hauppauge on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Credit: James Carbone

The coronavirus pandemic has hit nonwhite New Yorkers of all ages disproportionately, leading to greater rates of infection and death. Now, AARP research finds that older New Yorkers who aren’t white are falling behind on rent and are having trouble affording food "at far greater rates than their white counterparts."

The research showing these greater struggles was presented Tuesday at the group’s "AARP NY Disrupt Disparities 3.0 Virtual Summit," held on Zoom due to the pandemic and the need for social distance.

Another conclusion of the research, part of an effort by AARP over the past several years, "also shows that nursing homes with at least a quarter of African American or Latino residents have been twice as likely to be hit by COVID-19 than those with less than five percent of African American and Latino residents."

"This report shows what we’ve heard for months: that older New Yorkers of color have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic both in terms of their health and their financial security," AARP New York State director Beth Finkel said in a news release. "COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the disparities we’ve been documenting for years. We and our collaborators will keep fighting to make things right for all New Yorkers."

Several speakers at the summit also urged older New Yorkers to sign up for food stamps and other government assistance, noting that the amount of money provided during the public-health emergency has been vastly increased over ordinary times.

Politicians were among the speakers.

"We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating across the board here in America and as it relates to countries throughout the world — it’s the once-in-a-century pandemic that has caused a lot of pain and suffering and death throughout the land," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn). "But we also know that it has disproportionately and adversely impacted older Americans and Americans of color, particularly low-income older Americans of color."

Jeffries said that "the data with respect to the disparities should drive the resources" as government dollars were being allocated.

State Assemblyman Ron Kim criticized a state policy from early in the pandemic indemnifying nursing homes as akin to saying "we’re gonna give you the blanket pass during this pandemic."

He was referring to a provision, lobbied for by industry representatives, that shielded nursing homes from litigation over a failure to protect residents from coronavirus-related sickness or death. The law made it hard for families to sue.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in the spring that the legislation "is not intended to shield any bad-acting facilities during this tragic time, but rather to ensure facilities could continue to function in the face of potential shortages and other evolving challenges the pandemic presented."