Most people locally have not felt many effects of the federal sequester budget cuts. But some local residents, many of them seniors with low incomes, have felt the brunt of the cuts, losing adult day center services, home visits and counseling.
Joyce French says she likes attending J.R. Coleman’s Adult Day Center program because she can play “Fruits and Veggies” bingo, have story readings, spend time with friends and take walks outside.
In March, Melanie Griffith, the program’s director, told French, 61, and three other participants that they couldn’t be in the program anymore.
“She said they didn’t have no more funds for us, and we had to go home,” said French, a group home resident who is nearly blind due to severe macular degeneration. “I was sad. I was really sad.”
Earlier this year, the Stark County Department of Job and Family Services sent J.R. Coleman a letter saying it was ending its federal Title XX grant at the end of March due to the budget sequester cuts, which began March 1. Many nondefense federal budgets automatically have been cut by roughly 5 percent as part of an agreement between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans to avoid a national default in 2011.
J.R. Coleman’s $30,250 Title XX grant was to have lasted from March 2012 until June 30. It was cut by $4,250. That covered the costs of staff, supplies, rent and other expenses for the adult day center program in a leased space at Trinity United Church of Christ in Plain Township for French and three other elderly people.
“It’s hard to tell my seniors that they can’t attend adult day care any longer because of funding when I know they’re isolated in the group home,” said Griffith.
Stark Job and Family Services said it also notified five other organizations that it was ending their Title XX funding after March 31. Here’s what these agencies were supposed to get before the cuts:
• Westark Family Services, Massillon, provides home aide visits to elderly and disabled people, $76,651 grant, cut $12,184
• SarahCare Adult Day Care Centers, Canton and Jackson Township, $64,610 grant, cut $14,170.
• Caring Hands (affiliated with Alliance Community Hospital), Alliance, provides home aide visits to elderly and disabled people, $15,974 grant, cut $9,794.
• Stark Social Workers Network, Canton, provides counseling to former inmates to help them learn life skills, $33,444 grant, cut $15,876.
• ABCD, Canton, transport of about 15 residents to dialysis, $45,440 grant. However, Job and Family Services said ABCD had spent all but $2,884 of the grant by Feb. 28. ABCD CEO Will Dent said his group is trying to raise donations to continue the service.
WHAT IS TITLE XX?
Title XX of the Social Security Act authorizes federal block grants to states that they can use to help disabled adults become more self-sufficient, stop or address abuse and neglect of children and adults and fund home-based care to reduce the need for nursing home care.
Title XX recipients often don’t qualify for government programs such as Medicaid and Passport.
Page 2 of 3 - Groups said they also lost Title XX funding the past few years due to budget cuts.
Ohio Job and Family Services said due to the sequester cuts, it had to slash Stark County Job and Family Service’s allocation for October 2012 to September 2013 by about 5 percent to $1.46 million. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cut the state’s allocation from $41.9 million to $39.7 million.
Julie Barnes, the director of Stark Job and Family Services, said her agency spends its Title XX money primarily on funding its child and adult protective services departments. But it awards much of the rest in grants to local groups, who apply for them every two years. The cut fell disproportionately on the groups because child and adult protective services are mandated functions of the agency, said Barnes. Savings from not filling positions will offset the rest of the cut.
It’s not clear how much Title XX grant funding will be available when the next federal fiscal year starts Oct. 1, and who locally would get the money.
Shannon Ross, director of center operations for SarahCare, said due to the cut, her group had to dismiss six clients from the program. They had gotten medical monitoring, help with bathing and recreational activities during the day. However, one, due to a physical decline, did qualify for the Passport program, while the families of two managed to come up with the $66 per day to keep them at SarahCare three days a week.
“I don’t know what (the families of the two clients are) neglecting in order to meet that private pay,” Ross said.
Judi Steinbrink, program manager for Caring Hands, said her program had to discharge about six clients, most of them elderly residents who can’t afford to pay $16 an hour for the service. They no longer will have the help of Caring Hands home aides, who cleaned their homes and ran errands for them.
“Their heart won’t allow them or arthritis won’t allow them to do their dishes or wash their floors,” she said. “They live in a nonhealthy, filthy environment. This is an important program to the community to help keep them in their homes.”
Beverly Jordan, the CEO of Stark Social Workers Network, said she has had to let go two contractors who counseled former inmates and other clients on how to get employment, housing and assistance. She said she and two other staffers are now often counseling people without pay and are forced to refer people to other groups.
Nancy Maier, executive director of Westark, said about 27 of her clients — who have conditions ranging from blindness to congestive heart failure to leukemia — had Title XX-funded home care services. It’s not clear how many will qualify for alternative funding or can afford a reduced number of visits.
Page 3 of 3 - “It shows a lack of responsibility on the part of Congress,” said Maier, who noted that Congress recently shifted funding to end furloughs of air traffic controllers due to the sequester cuts but not to help an elderly and low-income “population that’s fairly easy to shuffle under the rug.”
Tom Thompson, executive director of Canton-based J.R. Coleman, said, “People who are impacted by the Title XX cuts here don’t really have the same voice as the people impacted by the air traffic control cuts.”
Thompson said people who volunteer for J.R. Coleman raised $1,100 to pay for French and Lorene “Wolfie” Wolf, 60, to return this month to the adult day center program. But only for four hours twice a week until around July.
“I love to be around people. Most of my life, I’ve been by myself all the time,” said Wolf. “I like to play the games they play here. I like to help out, and I clear all the tables.”
“I was happy when (Griffith) said we could come back,” said French. “I was tickled pink. I was depressed no more. ... I would love to be here all day, but we don’t have the funds to do it.”
Reach Robert at 330-580-8327
On Twitter: @rwangREP