State budget season is underway and the Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) is one of the many agencies that testified before the Ohio House Finance Committee and the Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services within the last few weeks. One of the line-items the Department of Aging is seeking is an increase in funding for the senior community services fund. This fund offers community-based services to help older adults remain independent in their homes and communities. According to the state’s proposed budget, ODA is seeking a 33.2 percent increase in funds for this program from fiscal year FY2021 to FY2022. In addition, ODA is requesting money for a new item called statewide aging initiatives. Statewide aging initiatives is a fund that will be used to address various things such as connecting long-term facilities to technical support, alleviating food insecurity and dealing with the limited amount of aging service providers. ODA is proposing $14 million for the fund in FY2022 and $9 million in FY2023.
ODA is proposing $14 million for the fund in FY2022 and $9 million in FY2023.
Director Ursel McElroy of ODA highlighted some key programs during her second testimony to the House Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee. For instance, she mentioned the nursing home quality initiative that will be led by the Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsmen. The aim of this program is to improve the quality of life for older adults living in nursing homes. In addition, ODA will collaborate with the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to conduct the Voluntary Nursing Home Bed Reduction Incentive Program. The goal is for the state to buy back beds, as there are 86,000 vacant beds in nursing facilities across the state. The benefits of purchasing beds include allowing nursing home residents to be in single rooms instead of double rooms in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and give residents a choice to either live alone or in a shared unit. ODA, ODH and ODM are requesting a one-time fund of $50 million for FY2022 under ODH’s proposed budget.
The safety and economic well-being of older adults is a budget priority for The Center for Community Solutions. Data shows the state’s older adult population is growing, and ODA’s funding should grow along with it. It is noteworthy that this ODA budget does not significantly expand program funding, but rather in many cases, restores it to previous biennium budget funding levels.The Ohio Department of Aging is proposing $14 million for the fund in FY2022. Follow the money in this #statebudget update Click To Tweet
For example, in the FY2020-2021 biennial budget, the budget increased the ODA Senior Community Services line item (490411) from $6.6 million in FY2019 to $8.15 million in FY2020 and FY2021. This allowed for the expansion of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) to the “entire state,” according to the LSC Green Book. Today, the market is utilized in 81 counties. However, the line item was reduced to $6.5 million in FY2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FY2022-FY2023 budget increases the amount back to $8.7 million, which represents a modest difference from the preceding budget.
The same is true for the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Respite line item (490414). In the FY2020-FY2021 final budget, the line item was worth $2.5 million dollars. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the funding was reduced to $2.2 million. According to the Legislative Service Commission’s Blue Book for FY2022-FY2023, the amount is raised back to $2.5 million, but remains the same amount from the previous biennium budget.
The only ombudsman line in which there is a requested increase is for “Ombudsman Support.”
The theme continues for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, a program that is designed to assist and advocates for older adults and people with disabilities, to enhance their quality of care and quality of life. The LTC Ombudsman (490410) line-item appropriation for FY2021 was $3.1 million. However, due to COVID-19 cuts, that amount was reduced to $1.6 million. According to the Blue Book, the FY2022-2023 budget proposes to increase the amount back up to $3.1 million in FY2022 and FY2023. So, while it may be described as a 36 percent increase from FY2021, compared to the original version of the previous budget, it is really no increase at all. The other ombudsman program budgets also remain the same, such as the Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which uses money to operate regional ombudsman programs. The proposed funding is $1,000,000 in FY2022 and $1,000,000 in FY2023, the exact same amount as what was budgeted FY2021. The only ombudsman line in which there is a requested increase is for “Ombudsman Support.” This line item ($1,500,000 in FY2021) added $32,273, which is 2.2 percent of the line-item total for FY2022 ($1,532,273).
Similarly, although not in the Ohio Department of Aging’s budget, the Adult Protective Services line item (600534) also did not see an increase in the FY2022-FY2023 budget proposal compared to the previous biennial budget. The amount remains frozen at $4.2 million.
The only meaningful increase in ODA spending comes from a new $14 million appropriation in FY2022, and a $9 million appropriation in FY2023, for an initiative between ODA and other state agencies that is meant to improve care in nursing homes. Details are light on what exactly that program will look like.
Another issue is broadband internet access, which is included in conversations around House Bill 2. That bill would increase investment in broadband connection speeds throughout the State of Ohio. Broadband and connectivity are included in the ODA State Action Plan on Aging (SAPA), which was released in early March, but it remains to be seen how it will be funded as the plan is implemented. Community Solutions will observe and report on the next steps and the implementation of the SAPA to see how goals are funded and executed.