Elderly Chinese Worry About Social Security Office Relocation

A Social Security Administration office that has served Chinatown and Chinese-speaking residents from surrounding areas for nearly four decades was scheduled to move this week — for the second time this year, reported Ding Wang for Sing Tao Daily. With its Chinese-speaking employees, the office has drawn a large contingent of elderly Chinese. But as the office moves further and further from Chinatown and its Chinese-language services remain in doubt, Chinese clients worry that the new office won’t serve them well. The article, which was published prior to the office’s latest relocation, is translated from Chinese below.

The Social Security Administration office that stood in Chinatown for nearly 40 years moved in April to 26 Federal Plaza, and was scheduled to move again on July 16, much to the dismay of elderly Chinese in Chinatown. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

The Social Security Administration office that has served Chinatown for 37 years closed in April, and services were relocated downtown to the Federal Plaza area.  But less than three months later, the office was once again reorganized and scheduled to move further south, to 123 William St. Many elderly Chinese who don’t speak English have been using the office for their social security-related business, and have had a hard time adapting to the new changes.

Yu-Shan Wong, the Social Security Administration’s Community Relations representative for Chinatown, confirmed the changes.  Wong said the lease at 26 Federal Plaza is up and the office needs to be relocated to the 4th floor of 123 William St. The new office was scheduled to open on July 16, and the office at Federal Plaza was no longer to be operating as of 3 p.m. on July 11…

Officials said that the Social Security Administration budget faces reductions of $1 billion to balance the large federal deficit.  The agency has already cut 400 positions, which has hit many offices hard.  Reorganizing the former Chinatown location will save the administration close to $7 million within the next ten years, they said.

Some elderly residents [told Sing Tao Daily] that when the office was moved to Federal Plaza, the agency claimed that the new location was still close to Chinatown, so people would not have to walk very far.  But why move the office again, to a faraway location, after only a three-month period? This move is hard for the elderly to adjust to.  Also, many elderly said they have filed complaints about reduced Chinese language support and resources over the last three months.

Sources said that about 10 Chinese-speaking employees are to move to the new Social Security office.  However, whether the new address will become a designated office for the Chinese community has yet to be determined. This will depend upon the number and needs of Chinese visitors who use the services.

Chinatown’s Social Security Administration Office was established in 1975 after the advent of welfare reform.  Its main goal was to provide social security cards and retirement services.  Because many employees in the office could speak Chinese, it attracted many Chinese residents from other parts of the city and even those who lived in other states.  According to the agency’s records, most of the visitors to the office were residents from outside of the Chinatown postal area of 10013. About 85 percent of visitors came from Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island, making it one of the busiest offices in the City.

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