Lawmaker Pushes for Restoration of State Funds for Senior Services

Assembly member V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella) last week said it’s imperative to restore $25 million in funding for senior services cut from previous budgets, particularly from the 2011-12 budget. He wants an Assembly budget subcommittee to put that money back.

“Over the last 10 years, state funding for senior programs within the Older Californians Act has been slashed to the bone,” Pérez said.

That includes elimination or reduction of a long list of senior services, he said, including Alzheimer’s Day Care Resource Centers, Senior Companion, Linkages, Respite Care, Brown Bag, Caregiver Resource Centers and the Long-term Care Ombudsman program.

Fully restoring funding for all of those services would come with a relatively low price tag, Pérez said — $25 million of general fund dollars would translate into $41 million, when matched with federal money, Pérez said.

The issue is expected to be reviewed at next week’s hearing of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Pérez said life has changed for seniors in California in recent years — and not for the better.

“Community-based programs … enable seniors to remain independent in their own homes, avoiding costly placement into institutional settings,” Pérez said. “The drastic cuts … have done serious harm to the infrastructure of the aging services network.”

Pérez cited statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation that rank California seniors as having the second-highest poverty rate in the nation. One in five California seniors live in poverty, he said, and more than half the seniors in the state live below 200% of poverty. The number of seniors is increasing in California so over the next few decades the overall number of people affected likely will climb dramatically, he said.

“I believe the restoration of funds to the Older Californians Act fits squarely with the core values of the [Democratic] Caucus’ Blueprint for a Responsible Budget,” Pérez said.

“Especially now with the state’s older population on the rise,” he said, “we must make essential state investments to repair and revitalize this network of flexible, locally driven, person-focused services.”

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