Senior Providers Face Financial Crisis As State Funds Run Dry - WSPA.com

Senior Providers Face Financial Crisis As State Funds Run Dry

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South Carolina government warns "there will never be enough money". South Carolina government warns "there will never be enough money".
EASLEY, S.C. - In Laurens County the meals stopped on the last day of June.  The kitchen sat empty.  Two cooks were laid off.  Dozens of seniors who depended on a taxpayer supported non-profit called Senior Options for lunch were cut off.

“It hurts.  It really hurts,” said Deborah Boyter who attended a community meeting at her assisted living facility to learn about the change.

Senior Options trimmed programs and staff for more than a year before ending Boyter’s lunch program.  Local senior care providers in several Upstate counties continued to struggle.

In Pickens County, Seniors Unlimited permanently closed it’s doors on July 1st.

“It’s sad to see the building closed,” said Steve Crowe, former chairman of the board at Seniors Unlimited.

“All of the seniors in Pickens county, they had no place to go,” Crowe said.

Crowe said the large group dining center in Easley was the last to close.  At one time, his agency provided services at four Pickens County locations.  Now, all 20 Seniors Unlimited employees have been laid off and all the centers are closed.

“We knew this was coming but we didn't do anything about it," said Tony Kester, director of the South Carolina Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging.

“There is not enough federal funding, there is not enough state funding, and there never will be,” Kester said.

7 On Your Side began investigating South Carolina’s taxpayer subsidized system of senior care in May.  The investigation found dozens of agencies left in financial peril because state money was frozen in Columbia.  Many providers, including those in Spartanburg, Anderson and Greenville went 4 months without receiving a dime.

After the WSPA investigation aired, the money started flowing. 

Still, even with state and federal tax dollars paid, Upstate providers continued to end services and close their doors.

Local agencies provide senior day care, home delivered meals and respite care using federal money under a program called the Older Americans Act.  Millions of tax dollars flow from Washington to South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging.  State taxpayers then add millions of additional dollars.

In the current fiscal year the Lt. Governor’s program spent $37 million dollars in state and federal funds.  Still, not all seniors who qualify for the program are getting help.  Many qualify for much more expensive help in the Medicaid program.

The costs keep soaring,  Each year, government statistics show another 10,000 Americans will turn 65 years old.

“We have the formula for a disaster," Kester said.

“What happens when we start hearing that people are dying in their home?," Kester said.

7 On Your Side asked the Lt. Governor’s office what they were doing to address this crisis in senior care.  They said they were trying to educate lawmakers about rethinking the system itself.

They’re also asking for innovative solutions, like the provider in the Midlands that’s combining some senior care with after school programs.

This year Governor Haley vetoed $2 Million in funding for senior programs at the Lt. Governor’s office saying costs were growing too quickly.  The legislature restored that funding.

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