Today, at City Hall in Rome, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Richard Hanna announced that the Rome Social Security Administration office that was slated for closure would remain open for an additional three months at City Hall, and called on the federal government to extend the three month time period to cover the end of the year. Following pressure from Schumer and Hanna, the SSA has agreed to keep the office open one day each week. This would enable SSA to monitor visit levels and determine if the office is used often enough to keep it open in Rome. City Hall is providing rent-free space throughout the extended service period. Noting that the office serves over 20,000 Rome seniors each year, the lawmakers called on the SSA to keep the office open through the end of the year, so that the federal government truly understands how integral this office is to the local community. Schumer and Hanna noted that the planned 3-month extended service period shows that local community support for this office is strong, and that local seniors should have through the end of the year to make the case for keeping the office open into the future. The lawmakers also demanded the immediate release of the original cost benefit analysis that began the closing proceedings.
"The SSA's decision to close the Rome social security office would put an unduly burden on over twenty-thousand Rome residents in receiving their hard-earned social security benefits, and the plan to keep the Rome office open for an additional three months is the first step towards keeping critical services available to Romans for the long term," said Schumer. "But it's only a first step, three months isn't enough. The next step is for the Rome office at City Hall to remain open through the end of the year, so that SSA officials can truly see how truly important this office is to the local community, both for its high ratings in effectiveness and its first-rate face-to-face services for the elderly and disabled. The next nearest office in Utica is over 15 miles away, which translates into a burdensome trek for the nearly 22,000 Romans that are used to visiting a familiar neighborhood office. The decision to keep the office open for an extended service period shows that plans to close the facility may have been a mistake, but Rome seniors deserve a fair shake when fighting for this facility. SSA should keep the office open as often as they can for the remainder of the year. What they'll see is an important community service that seniors rely on, and a community service that must be kept up and running."
"This is a step in the right direction for more than 20,000 senior citizens in the city of Rome and outlying areas," Representative Hanna said. "This facility importantly should remain open in Rome for more than once a week for three months. I look forward to continuing to work with the Social Security Administration, Senator Schumer, state Senator Griffo and Rome Mayor Fusco to get this done. Rome City Hall would be a great facility to house the office and it wouldn't be any cost to the taxpayers since it's rent-free."
Schumer and Hanna were joined by Rome Mayor Joe Fusco and State Senator Joe Griffo as they announced that the Social Security Administration office in Rome would remain open for an extra three months, likely at City Hall, and launched their push to keep the office open until the end of 2012. In light of news in early March that the SSA Rome office would close as a part of wider consolidation plans, Schumer and Hanna urged SSA Administrator Astrue to keep the Rome office open so that this efficient office can continue serving 22,000 rural Oneida County residents. In addition, Schumer and Hanna today called on Astrue to release the cost-benefit analysis of the ways in which the Rome closure decision would save SSA money, given that the SSA office in Rome is nationally recognized for its high efficiency.
In March, the Social Security Administration announced that the Social Security office on North George Street would be relocating its operations to the Alexander Pirnie Federal Building in Utica. This decision would mean that the 22,000 beneficiaries residing in the Rome area who obtain their retirement and disability services at the social security office in Rome would have to travel a much greater distance for these essential services. This relocation announcement came despite the Rome office's high efficiency rating over the years, among the highest in the country.
Immediately following the SSA's closure announcement, Schumer and Hanna called on the Social Security Administration to keep the Rome location and its essential services nearby. Today's plan to keep the office open for three additional months, likely in the Rome City Hall, is an important step towards that happening. Schumer and Hanna noted that City Hall is providing rent-free space, highlighting the importance that this facility has in the Rome community. During this period of time, SSA officials can monitor visit levels and determine if the office is used often enough to keep it open in Rome. Schumer and Hanna are urging SSA Administrator Astrue to extend that by an additional five months, so that SSA officials can truly observe the activity and critical services provided to 22,000 Rome seniors through the end of 2012.
Schumer has requested that, prior to a final determination regarding the relocation of the Rome office, the SSA explicitly set forth its economic justification for the move. In a letter sent to the SSA on March 27th, he asked that a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis be performed, detailing the office cost to the agency and the savings anticipated to accrue if the office were to close. The additional three months will enable SSA to conduct a more thorough review of its savings plan, and Schumer again today called on the Social Security Administration to make public their justification for attempting to close the Rome office.
A copy of Schumer and Hanna's letter to SSA Commissioner Astrue appears below:
Dear Commissioner Astrue,
We write today, following up on our correspondence from earlier this month, concerning your agency's decision to close the Rome Social Security Office on North George Street. After hearing from several of our constituents, and knowing ourselves the important services provided to Romans by their local SSA office, we were happy to hear your agency finalized plans to continue service in Rome for a three-month period. As you know, a Rome SSA closure would impact roughly 22,000 residents, forcing our elderly or disabled to go farther for essential services.
However, the three-month, one-day-a-week extended service period your agency has promised does not go far enough. That's why we are hopeful your agency will extend this period until the end of 2012--just five months longer than already committed. Moreover, we write asking for this entire extended service period to take place in Rome's City Hall, where rent-free space has been offered up to your agency.
A comprehensive review process through the end of the year would give both your local and DC-based administrators a chance to truly examine the numbers and assess Rome's needs clearly and accurately. Coupled with our requested cost-benefit analysis of the closure, the information your agency would be able to provide would better justify the final decision for Rome's office.
Again, we reiterate our request for an extended service period lasting until the end of 2012. We also urge your agency to accept the offer from the Rome mayor and utilize, free-of-charge, Rome City Hall during this period. Finally, we remind you of our request for a detailed cost-benefit analysis, one we can share with the residents of Rome, as well as other stakeholders. We invite you to call upon us throughout the duration of this review period should you have any further questions regarding our requests.