JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT REQUIRING EMERGENCY GENERATORS IN CERTAIN HOUSING FOR THE ELDERLY.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
Nursing homes are required under federal and state regulations to have back-up generators available for use during power outages. However, homes for the aged do not have such a requirement. In case of a power outage, it is imperative that a facility be able to maintain lighting of exits sufficient to safely evacuate residents, and to maintain critical safety systems such as telephones, fire detection and suppression systems (such as smoke alarms and sprinklers), and refrigeration units for safe handling of food and medications. Therefore, homes for the aged should be required to maintain similar emergency generator systems as required for nursing homes.
The bill would ensure that elderly persons have sufficient backup power in emergencies.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Evonne Klein, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Housing: Opposes the bill. Testifying that because of its significant cost to already financially overburdened housing authorities throughout the state. They view the proposal as an unfunded mandate which would have an adverse impact on the low income residents who this legislation is intended to serve. They point out that their primary source of income is generated from the rental payment collected from its residents. Without an appropriation from the state, the authorities would be forced to raise rents on the residents to cover the cost of the generators.
Commissioner Klein states that the cost of installing these generators is also a great concern. There is no uniform standard for the design of these housing developments. A housing authority may have over 100 units but they could be a “scattered site” development which would mean there could be several smaller building scattered throughout the property and the bill as drafted would require each of the individual building to install a generator. There is no one size fits all and the costs would likely be reflected in the rents to cover the cost of the generators. Most properties do have staff whose responsibilities include the identification of community services, emergency services and the determination of how this information is shared with its residents. Also most of these properties do have community rooms that do have temporary heat and power in the event of an emergency.
Christy Kovel, Senior Policy Analyst, Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors: Ms. Kovel points out that that older adults are especially vulnerable during power outages when many have complex medical condition that require the need for a consistent power source. These needs have been highlighted by some significant storms we have had over the last few years. Providing generators at housing developments for older adults and persons with disabilities has the potential to limit the use of emergency rooms and emergency shelter during periods of power outages but the fiscal impact to communities is a significant barrier to implementation.
PA16-3 required the Commission to study the need for emergency power generators at the states elderly public housing sites. They hope to provide a picture of best practices in the implementation to inform future policy and they look forward to submitting their findings to this committee and the housing and public safety committees at the end of this month.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Lt. Racheal Cain, Internal Affairs Commander, New Haven Department of Police Service: Support the bill. Lt. Cain recounts an incident in 2000 at the Bella Vista Apartments. During a heat wave the apartment complex experienced a brown out and power to all five of the towers was out and 1000 elderly residents were affected with temperatures rising to over 100 degrees. All the on duty police were called in to assist the Fire Dept. with the evacuation. While they were lucky to have evacuated all of the residents without major medical trauma that night many had to be taking down 15 flights of stairs and some had to be carried down the entire way.
Mr. John Sastre, President Connecticut Emergency Management Association: Support the bill. However, they are concerned about the requirement that proposes “a minimum of four to twelve hours of sufficient power to each unit for heating, water, lighting and any other critical mechanical equipment”. They suggest removing the language referencing a four to twelve hour minimum since doing so will encourage a four hour power supply.
They also ask that the language be modified to require full building generator power which would remove any discussion or opinions on what “critical mechanical equipment” might be.
They also recommend that the following language be substituted in the proposed bill. “Any public housing project consisting of not less than one hundred units for elderly persons should install and maintain one or more emergency power generators capable of providing full electrical power to each unit to include heating, air conditioning, hot water and full residential electrical service for the duration of any power failure ….”.
They point out that the costs would mostly be onetime costs while ongoing maintenance costs would be minimal. They also feel that requiring generator backup power makes those units more attractive and increases their marketability and would reduce vacancy rates for those who operate that housing.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM); Oppose the bill. CCM testified that while the proposed bill is well intended, they believe that it represents an unfunded mandate and the fiscal implications on a municipality can be onerous.
Mag Morelli, President, LeadingAge Connecticut: Oppose the bill but support the intent of the bill. They have concerns about the fiscal impact for public housing projects consisting of one hundred or more units. President Morelli cites that in 2013 they were told that the initial cost could run anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 for a typical site of just 30 to 50 units. She offers an example that one of their members installed a generator in a forty unit community at a cost of about $125,000. It is their position that the cost would be even higher to provide emergency power to a development of over one hundred units as the bill proposes.
John Rumberger, Vice President of Housing and Legislation, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, CT Chapter (NAHRO): Oppose the bill unless funding is incorporated for construction, installation and ongoing maintenance of generators. As stated in the past, there is little or no money available for such installation and maintenance of this equipment. In addition this years' proposed bill requires each apartment to have power for a minimum of 4/12 hours as opposed to a community center for resident use during a prolonged loss of power.
Reported by: Richard Ferrari/Rhonda Carroll