LEGISLATIVE WATCH: Aging budget gets downsized

I attended the Aging and Disability Services Division budget hearing on March 16 and I wasn't too surprised to hear that services for the elderly provided by community-based volunteer organizations would once again be cut - even though they keep seniors at home and out of costly institutions for a very small amount. While these programs cost far less than institutionalization, they are not legally mandated; however, institutional care is.

I was really impressed when Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford very emphatically pointed out to the joint money committees that he took exception to policies that do not make in-home care a priority. Horsford further pointed out that cuts continue to be made to affordable or free in-home care while at the same time maintaining full funds for costly institutional care. He said it made no sense to support costly institutional care for a senior over at home care which is only a fraction of the cost. Besides, seniors want to remain in their homes as long as possible.

There also were several other cuts that hurt, such as the Senior Citizens Property Tax Assistance Program. This assists nearly 18,000 seniors with up to a $500 rebate which helps with their taxes. It seems odd that we can give billionaires tax breaks but not low income seniors.

I was happy to see Elder Protective Services expanded as elder abuse is a real problem, and not nearly enough social workers have been available for urgent cases. Social workers have been trying to handle around 77 cases a day which is impossible. The national average is 25.

I've been asked for an update on Senate Bill 178 which calls for a senior's birth certificate or passport in order to receive services, and have been advised that it won't be heard until sometime in April. The same for Assembly Bill 242 which calls for more reporting from community-based organizations (CBOs), if they receive state funds. CBOs are already audited about 10 times a year and this just adds another layer of bureaucracy and kills another tree.

Thanks to all of you who responded to my column on H.R.1, a bill in Congress that fires a million senior volunteers nationwide, who are picking up the slack in these tough times. Instead of being praised and appreciated, H.R.1 is a slap in the face.

Keep the messages going to Congress that you are outraged at such actions and ask that this part of the bill be deleted. You can reach Dean Heller at 202-225-6155, Joe Heck at 202-225-3252, and Shelley Berkley at 202-225-5965. You also can contact Sen. Harry Reid at 202 224-3542 and Sen. John Ensign at 202-224-6244. Remember that it was Heller, Heck and Ensign that voted to dismantle the Senior Corps volunteers, while Berkley and Reid voted to keep them. Stay tuned!

• Janice Ayres is president of Nevada Senior Corps Association.


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