U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) and the Ulster County legislature have stepped forward in an attempt to talk the Social Security Administration (SSA) out of closing their only Ulster County office, located in Lake Katrine. If the closing goes through as scheduled on March 14, elderly or disabled recipients, many of them on fixed income and relying on public transportation, will have to travel an extra 23 or 28 miles to reach Social Security offices in Poughkeepsie or Hudson.
In defense of the cost-cutting measure, SSA spokesman John Shallman pointed out, “SSA’s administrative budget has been significantly reduced during the past three fiscal years, resulting in three straight years of funding levels nearly a billion dollars below the President’s budget requests.” He also observed that individuals could obtain information, file applications, or arrange for other services through the agency’s website or over the phone.
Given that many seniors are not computer-literate, and transactions often involve sensitive documents that one would not be eager to entrust to the mail, Schumer feels that closing the Lake Katrine office would be a hardship for the roughly 95 people per working day who visit the location. In a letter to SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, he stated that the local facility is being offered a new space at the complex for Ulster County Senior and Veteran services, at half the cost of their current office.
Meanwhile, the Ulster County Legislature has voted unanimously to approve a resolution stating that the SSA should not close the Lake Katrine office. “With an estimated 34% of the Ulster County population receiving Social Security Income and an additional 5% receiving Supplemental Security Income in 2012, the expectation that this population travel to Poughkeepsie or Hudson for the completion of required Federal documentation is deemed unrealistic by the Ulster County Legislature,” stated the resolution.
Legislation sponsor Jeanette Provenzano commented, “My constituents started to call me, concerned that they would not be able to work face-to-face with Social Security. They know, as I know firsthand, that not everything can be done over the phone. To remove the ability for Ulster County’s residents to have that personal, one-on-one communication is unconscionable.”
Majority Leader Donald Gregorius added, “Ulster County residents deserve face-to-face communication with the Social Security officials.”