The Webster Council on Aging will to continue to offer senior citizens the services they need after narrowly escaping cuts from the state.
COA Director Dathene Brown says at first the state was set to cut about $31,237 from their budget, which would have meant cuts to personnel and the services they offer. She had proposed to cut salaries instead of programs.
“That would have meant that we would have had to cut meals, and we would have had to probably lay off people,” she said. “In fact, I was looking at cutting all of us, especially the administrative staff, because I don’t want to cut those direct service people, such as the homemakers and the caregivers that go into the homes of the elderly. I certainly didn’t want to cut the home-delivery meals program and the congregate meals program.”
She says they would have also been hurt had Gov. John Bel Edwards pulled their tax-exempt status, but she was relieved to see it was not.
“We have not experienced the cuts that others have experienced,” she said. “We had people from the Louisiana Association of Councils on Aging that had been meeting on the steps of the Capitol and with legislators explaining what it would do to our elderly people if they cut us. They were not just hurting us, the board of directors, but they were hurting the people we are here to serve.”
She applauded them for saving the councils on aging, because that means the elderly will continue to get vital services they might not otherwise have access to, she said.
The Webster Council on Aging runs on an annual budget of approximately $575,000, comprised of federal, state and local funding. Brown says some of the local funding comes from the Webster Parish Police Jury; they received some funding from a United Way donation, which will go towards the home-delivery meals programs. They also have received funding from the Ride for Life in Springhill, she says, which also goes toward the home-delivery meals program.
“That’s probably our most expensive program,” she said.
The Council on Aging pays $3.50 per meal; for those clients who can afford it, they pay $2 per meal.
“We have really come out well,” she said. “Education and hospitals, they have really suffered as a result of this. I feel very fortunate we fared as well as we did.”