Complying with state rule may cut into senior meals No funding included in new requirement CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

September 29, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

An unfunded state mandate may soon take a bite out of group meal programs for Carroll's senior citizens.

The state has told the county it must foot the bill for one meal a day at the assisted-living program for low-income elderly at Ridge Residences, a Westminster seniors apartment complex.

Janet B. Flora, chief of the county Bureau of Aging, said she supports Ridge Residences in its mission, which she said is to help elderly people remain independent instead of going into nursing homes.

However, she said, the state mandate came with no extra money from the state to pay for it. Instead, money will have to come from the bureau's nutrition budget -- already dedicated to providing group meals at sites around Carroll County, including senior citizens centers.

This year, Ms. Flora said, the cost to the bureau for the Ridge Residences meal service will be relatively small -- about $5,600.

The bureau's meal budget for this year is $281,782, which includes a combination of federal, state and county funding.

Ms. Flora said the mandated expense will have no immediate effect on services to the elderly. The problem, she said, is not this year's budget, but the future effect as more senior assisted-living housing developments open in the county.

"I think this [Ridge Residences] is the first of many" multifamily, .. assisted-living developments for seniors that will be built in Carroll County in coming years, each of which will further sap the bureau's nutrition budget," Ms. Flora said.

"I think it's only the beginning," she said. "We know the county has not even begun to grow, as far as the senior population is concerned."

The county Bureau of Aging is waiting to hear if the federal Department of Health and Human Services approves a new formula for distributing funding for Older Americans Act programs.

If the new formula is approved, the bureau could lose $32,000 in funding this fiscal year. Meal programs would bear part of that loss.

In Baltimore, she said, "They did have to close some meal sites" because of the cost of the mandate.

Toby Felcher, special assistant to the executive director for the Baltimore City Commission on Aging and Retirement Education, said that the mandated portion of meal expenses has "become like half of our [nutrition] program here in the city."

However, Ms. Felcher cautioned against drawing too strong a comparison between Baltimore's experience and what Carroll County can expect, because Baltimore's senior population is in poorer health and worse off financially.

Ms. Flora said she had spoken with officials at the state Office on Aging to express concern over the unfunded mandate.

She said they are considering the problem.

She said the county Bureau on Aging is not asking the Carroll County government to make up the lost money.

"We're not going to the county, we're going to the state, because it's a state mandate," she said.

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