Budget cuts to harm Iowa’s elders

ValueAging Plate

The Iowa Senate has proposed cutting over $330,000 dollars to the Iowa Department on Aging in Senate File 2117. This is approximately three times the cuts proposed by Governor Reynolds. These cuts will be passed on to Iowa’s six Area Agencies on Aging who provide and contract services that help vulnerable older Iowans maintain independence in their own homes and communities. The Area Agencies on Aging are reporting that they will be left with no option but to cut essential services if these cuts move forward.

“After last year’s reductions, we simply have nowhere else to cut,” said Donna Harvey, CEO of Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging and the previous director of the Iowa Department on Aging. During last year’s legislative session, Iowa’s legislature reduced funding to the Iowa Department on Aging, and therefore the Area Agencies on Aging, resulting in staff reductions and cuts to services. Last year’s reductions provided the baseline for the current year’s budget, which started July 1, 2017. The governor’s decision to not hold an emergency session before the legislative session means that proposed budget cuts will leave Area Agencies on Aging with only a few months to cut a year’s worth of funds associated with proposed budget cuts. Any budget reduction this year means that funding for services next year will start at a lower baseline than already exists. This will only perpetuate the harm being done.

What’s at risk?

Nutrition and meal programs, such as home-delivered meals, and in-home support services will be primarily hit by these cuts. It is currently estimated that nearly 16,000 fewer nutritious meals will be made available to older Iowans under the governor’s budget cuts and, if the Senate bill prevails, that number could reach nearly 50,000 fewer meals for older Iowans.

Vulnerable older Iowans are those who are experiencing decline in their ability to participate in daily activities that many people take for granted, such as bathing, dressing, using a toilet, or walking. Older adults in this situation are at risk of prematurely entering long-term care facilities, which further increases State expenditures since approximately 60% of Iowa’s long-term care residents require funding support from Iowa’s Medicaid system. To slow this progression towards long-term care and Medicaid funding, Iowa’s Area Agencies on Aging provide supports and services, often just one time, including “material aid” and medications. Material aid provides a critical support when no other resource is available and provides funding for durable medical equipment purchases, beds, eyeglasses, emergency lifelines, and utilities. These supports promote independence of the older adult in their home.

“At Aging Resources, we will need to eliminate material aid funding for 200 individuals in our service area,” said Joel Olah, executive director at Aging Resources of Central Iowa.

What can you do?

SeniorsVote PlateContact your elected officials and let them know that #SeniorsVote and to #ValueAging. Proposed cuts will directly harm vulnerable older adults in Iowa. Remind your elected official that 72% of Iowans over age 65 are registered to vote and 30.5% of all votes cast in Iowa during the 2014 election (Iowa Data Center, 2017).

Join our Paper Plate campaign! It’s simple! Get a paper plate and write a message to your elected official telling them how reducing funding will harm you or an older loved one. If you do not have a specific message to share, but want to join the campaign, simply write #SeniorsVote or #ValueAging on your plate.  Take a picture of you and/or your loved one holding the plate and send it to us through social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

Then mail your plate to your elected official or go to their next local event and give your plate to them. You can even deliver your plate to the Capitol!

Tell your elected official to stop hurting our older Iowans.

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