Ananich, Smiley Work to Protect Seniors from Increased Taxes, Elder Abuse

House Dems' legislation takes aim at preventing elder abuse, financial exploitation
Monday, February 28, 2011

LANSING – State Representatives Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and Charles Smiley (D-Burton) are working to protect seniors from increased taxes and have introduced legislation to help fight elder abuse. The Governor’s recent tax and budget proposal, which Ananich and Smiley strongly oppose, included massive tax increases on Michigan’s seniors.

“This is the Greatest Generation who built our middle-class and earned a secure, dignified retirement so the least we can do is protect them from anyone trying to take money out of their pockets - whether they be predators or politicians,” said Ananich, a sponsor of one of the bills in the plan. “These are painful, complicated issues for families, but we must continue to give law enforcement tools they need to try to keep our loved ones safe.”

The legislative package is part of House Democrats’ ongoing effort to strengthen Michigan’s consumer protection laws as the economy continues to struggle. Elder abuse can include abandonment and neglect, financial exploitation, and emotional, physical or sexual abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the crime is vastly underreported. A recent story in the Flint Journal highlighted the persistent problem of elder abuse and the need for more help to effectively address the issue.

The legislation will create the “Mozelle Alert,” an alert mechanism to notify the public in cases of missing endangered seniors, similar to the Amber Alert. The alert is named in honor of Estella Mozelle Pierce, a senior who died after wandering from her Southwest Detroit home.

Other parts of the plan seek to address elder abuse by:

• Increasing penalties for cheating or defrauding seniors, including establishing felony charges for embezzlement and banning abusers from inheriting the estate of their victim.

• Empowering concerned citizens to file criminal complaints to stop and prevent abuse cases in nursing homes and elsewhere.

• Strengthening consumer protections by creating new safeguards against fraud and requiring financial institutions to do more to disclose the rights of seniors.

“More can be done to defend seniors who are trying to survive on limited means and live out their later years in peace,” said Smiley. “As we work in Lansing to create jobs, we can’t let these vulnerable citizens fall through the cracks.”

To report a suspected case of elder abuse, residents can contact the state’s 24-hour hotline by calling (800) 99NOABUSE (996-6228). Also, you can reach the Genesee County Elder Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Task Force at http://www.eaaep.com or by calling (810) 762-4022.