Aging department redirects budget

By The Active Age | July 1, 2022

The Sedgwick County Department on Aging has revised its plan for spending money added to its budget.

County commissioners created a $500,000 contingency fund for senior-related services during last year’s budget process. In April, the department proposed spending $180,000 of that, with the rest being returned to the county general fund.

That prompted criticism from some members of the county’s Advisory Council on Aging & Physical Disabilities, who said there were many unmet needs among older residents.

Last month, the department outlined a new plan for spending the entire amount. It calls for spending $135,000 on a vehicle for the department’s senior transportation program, $130,000 on hearing aids, $125,000 for utility assistance, $60,000 on eyeglasses and $50,000 on emergency food boxes.

Area senior centers, which were to receive a total of $100,000 under the initial plan, will not get anything. Senior Services, Inc., which had requested money for its cash-strapped Meals on Wheels program, also will not receive anything. Its executive director, Laurel Alkire, said it’s “highly likely” that the organization will be forced to create a waiting list for the program beginning Oct. 1.

The aging department plan was released during a June 14 meeting of commissioners and county staff and no action was taken by commissioners.

The department’s director, Annette Graham, said the three counties covered by the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging — Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey counties — are set to receive $2.27 million in federal COVID-related funds, some of which will be used by nutrition programs. But, she said, delivering meals to homes in person multiple days a week may no longer be feasible.

“We really do need to look at some new models … to meet nutrition needs,” Graham said.