Assemblymembers Fight To Protect Spousal Refusal

From left to right, Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, and Assistant Speaker Ortiz discuss the need to preserve the right to spousal refusal today at St. Nicholas Home.

In a bipartisan effort, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C,I-Brooklyn, Staten Island), Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), and Assemblywoman Pamela Harris (D-Brooklyn) are calling for spousal refusal, a provision in state law that helps caregiving individuals provide long-term care for their spouses without losing their entire life savings, to be preserved in the state budget. The executive budget seeks to eliminate the critical protection that spousal refusal provides, which has scores of community members, mostly senior citizens, concerned. The three lawmakers recently held a press conference at St. Nicholas Home, a senior living facility in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, calling for action.

“Caring for an ailing spouse is often a full-time job and extremely burdensome on the healthy caregiver, let along the financial cost. I urge my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to, once again, preserve spousal refusal to ensure that this critical safety net is available for families that are counting on it. The loss of spousal refusal would be devastating to so many seniors in our community and will cause the healthy spouse to lose their entire life savings to provide care for their loved one,” said Assemblywoman Malliotakis.

“The removal of spousal refusal is detrimental to our senior population. Thousands of New Yorkers take advantage of this right in order to avoid unreasonable financial suffering when their spouse enters a nursing home. We need to stand up for our seniors and protect their right to spousal refusal. Its elimination would cause a serious financial burden on one of New York’s most vulnerable populations,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz.

Spousal refusal allows seniors who are in the community to separate their income and resources from their spouses whom have to be serviced in a nursing home due to chronic health needs that cannot be provided for at home. Thousands of New Yorkers take advantage of this right in order to avoid unreasonable financial suffering when their spouse enters a nursing home. With spousal refusal, the healthy spouse is able to keep a home, a car, and $119,220 in assets. Without spousal refusal, the couple would have to spend down and live the remainder of their lives on $23,844 in assets.