Advocates for the elderly are praising Gov. Brian Kemp for proposing funding that could make a difference for 1,000 of the 7,000 older Georgians on waiting lists for home and community services. Kemp’s FY 2020 budget proposal, unveiled Thursday, includes an extra $1,898,000 for a state program that helps the elderly stay in their communities.

Also in response to the waiting lists for Meals on Wheels at the Area Agencies on Aging across the state, Kemp’s budget includes $945,955 for meals for these seniors.

“We are so grateful to the governor for his insight and budget recommendation,” Vicki Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging, said late Thursday. “Not only is this the most cost-efficient way of helping our elderly citizens, but it also allows them to stay in their homes where they prefer to be.” The state Home and Community-based Service (HCBS) program provides help for eligible elderly Georgians with tasks, such as bathing and dressing, transportation to doctors, and home-delivered meals.

In Fiscal Year 2017, about 34,000 Georgians received HCBS assistance, a 9.9 percent increase from the previous year thanks to budget increases. About 7,000 seniors currently are on waiting lists for these services, according to data from the Georgia Council on Aging.

The Council and the 900-plus member Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly (CO-AGE) are making extra funding for HCBS their top priority for the 2019 legislative session. The costs to provide home and community-based care is about one-tenth of the costs of nursing home care, Johnson said.

“It’s far less expensive than the alternatives, and it’s giving our seniors and their families an option they want and need,” she said. Kemp’s budget recommendations have to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly and would be valid for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Kemp’s budget also includes $338,802 for Georgia’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC). The Council and CO-AGE had asked for a $4 million increase in state funds. The centers, located throughout the state, provide information and referral services to older Georgians about private and public help that’s available.

More than 95,000 Georgians received assistance through the centers in Fiscal Year 2017 from more than 26,000 community-based providers.

Also included in Kemp’s budget are funds for Adult Protective Service and Public Guardianship workers, for a total of $1,323,839. These crucial public servants help protect Georgia’s vulnerable at-risk adults.

CO-AGE has other 2019 legislative priorities including:
• Providing affordable housing for people who need help with daily living activities, such as meals, medications, dressing, and bathing.
• Strengthening penalties and sanctions for personal care homes that do not comply with existing regulations.
• And expanding healthcare coverage for seniors