Another witness, Barbara Whipple, an associate attorney with Barbaruolo Law Firm in Latham, said she practices primarily in the area of consumer bankruptcy. She recalled a 70-year-old client with a $1,400 monthly credit card bill who came to her office seeking help.
"I said to her, 'You need to retire,'" Whipple said. "'I can absolutely not afford to do that', she said. 'Barb, I have convinced myself that I will be working until I die.'"
After the hearing, Gillibrand thanked Halfmoon supervisor Mindy Wormuth and councilwoman Regina Parker for attending. She also responded to Whipple's story.
"I think it's terrible, and I think that these credit card companies taking advantage of our senior citizens is something that has to stop," Gillibrand said. "I think Congress is going to work hard through the financial services committee to come up with some recommendations."
David Billet, who also testified at the hearing, is the Director of Legislation and Government Affairs with the state banking department.
"States have essentially no authority to apply their consumer protection laws to the activities of the nation's largest credit card issuers," Billet said. "The only option is for the federal government to adopt national standards to address credit card problems on a nationwide basis, which would then protect all citizens in all states."
Halfmoon senior David Pohl said that fixed budgets and soaring health-care costs were the reasons for increased debt among seniors.
"People like us and older are not out there buying $50,000 cars, TVs, refrigerators or expensive items," Pohl said. "We're using it for health care problems that come up. That's the reason for the spike on older peoples' credit card problems."
"When your prescription goes up from $42 a month to $82 a month, that's a big impact on people just living on social security," he added. "[Either] they don't get it and they're going to die in a year, or they go into debt."