In Olympia, mixed messages for ‘Older Americans Month’

By Chris Thomas | May 16, 2013

Today, Gov. Jay Inslee celebrates Older Americans Month by walking with seniors around the State Capitol campus. However, inside the Capitol, the legislature's inability to agree on a budget poses a threat to many programs and services that help older Washingtonians.

Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director, AARP Washington, said of particular concern is the Senate budget, which ensures more funding for education by setting limits on future state expenses in other areas.

"This would essentially cap funding for senior services and social services, veterans' programs and mental health, all at about 2.6 percent per fiscal year, which is far lower than the rate at which, for example, home-care costs are growing as we're hitting the age wave," she explained.

In the Senate budget, more cutbacks to home-care hours and no new funding for investigating elder abuse and exploitation are among the AARP concerns, McDonald said. In the House budget, the Office of Public Guardianship is on the chopping block, affecting poor people who are incapacitated and need legal guardians, she added.

The Senate budget also eliminates the Kinship Caregivers Support Program. Shelly Willis, executive director, Family Education and Support Services, pointed out that grandparents raising grandchildren do not get state support like foster parents do, and they sometimes have emergency needs that this program helps address.

"They may have to relocate because they're living in senior housing, they might have to go buy diapers or a car seat - these expenses are unexpected. For every one child placed in foster care, there are eight children placed in relative care. For a very small amount of money, we're helping a lot of families."

Placing a child with relatives saves the state money and also tends to be better for the child than the foster care system, she added. AARP warned that this program and others are slated to be cut if lawmakers cannot agree on ways to raise more revenue.

The governor will meet seniors at noon today on the north side of the legislative building, Olympia.


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