Budget Bite: Senior Services
March 9, 2017
After years of decline, funding is flat
Ohioans of all ages do better when we make sure that older members of our communities have what they need to be safe and thrive. The Kasich administration is proud of its efforts to help seniors age at home – a worthy goal. But cuts to senior services make it hard for elderly Ohioans to care for themselves and be safe. Inadequate funding of adult protective services puts our neighbors at risk of elder abuse and neglect.
Fewer senior services
Senior services through the Senior Community Services Block Grant in the Ohio Department of Aging is flat-funded the budget for 2018 and 2019, compared to the current, two-year budget. Inflation over the next two years will erode the purchasing power of the funding. Moreover, this follows years of decline.
The Senior Community Services Block Grant provides support for services for Ohioans 60 and older who live at home but need help as they age with basics like home-delivered meals, transportation and personal care. These services help prevent functional and financial decline that can lead to poverty and Medicaid dependence.
The number of seniors in Ohio will grow by 50 percent between 2000 and 2020. Yet over the same time period, policy makers have cut the Senior Community Services Block Grant line item by half. On top of that, elimination of tax reimbursements has taken $11 million a year out of local seniors’ levies across the state. Governor Kasich’s budget continues the trend of ongoing reduction in the Senior Community Services.
Adult Protective Services
Lawmakers also need to adequately fund adult protective services to prevent physical, emotional and financial harm to vulnerable seniors. The Ohio Family Violence Prevention Project estimates that each year, 105,000 older adults (over 60) in Ohio are abused or neglected. They need caseworkers to make sure they are safe, well cared for and not living in fear or abuse.
As with many important social services, the state of Ohio historically left most of the funding of adult protective services to federal funding and local government. The state has stepped up within the past three years, but today’s state funding, at $30,000 per county ($2.6 million in total), is inadequate. Many Ohio counties lack even one full-time APS caseworker.
At least $65,000 per county is needed, to support at least one caseworker for adult protective services and necessary management support and overhead. At a recommended 25 cases per worker per month, it would take $15 million a year to adequately staff adult protective services to reach all of Ohio’s vulnerable seniors.
But the Governor’s budget for 2018-19 flat-funds Adult Protective Services at $2.6 million a year.
With federal funds for social services on the chopping block, state lawmakers need to act to protect the most vulnerable of Ohio’s people. The Senior Community Block Grant should be restored, more than doubling it to meet today’s growing needs. Adult Protective Services should be supported by the state with $15 million a year. Both of these programs are effective, solid solutions to the challenges that older Ohioans face. Supporting them will help our elderly neighbors to live well in our communities.