AARP’s 2017 budget priorities

Mike Festa

By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts

Massachusetts elected officials prepared the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) commonwealth budget proposal, a $40.5 billion spending plan which funds key priorities.

The Massachusetts fiscal year begins on July 1. Governor Charlie Baker made his budget recommendations in January; the House made its budget recommendations in April; and the Senate released its recommendations in May.  The budget conference committee will release their recommendations in June.

AARP believes the commonwealth must now invest in vital programs, services and budgets to protect our aging population. We know that with each budget, difficult decisions must be made.  But, we also know that the most vulnerable among us must be protected.

The aging population of Massachusetts will continue to grow along with its unique issues related to financial, health, caregiving and long-term care needs. Both planning and action by the commonwealth are required to make our society work well on behalf of all residents.

There are more than one million commonwealth residents age 65 and over, and according to the recent Massachusetts Commission on Elder Economic Security report, 6 in 10 single elders do not have the income to meet their basic needs.

According to estimates from the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, the number of adults 60 and over in Massachusetts will soon eclipse the under-20 age cohort for the first time in recorded history. By the next census in 2020, the 60-plus group will comprise 24 percent of the population. AARP Massachusetts believes it is incumbent upon policy makers to recognize the changing demographics.

AARP Massachusetts budget priorities include programs and services that recognize and support the critical role of family caregivers; help people stay in their own home and community; strengthen the financial security of Massachusetts residents; and encourage age-friendly communities. Specifically, we recommend the following:

  • Full and adequate funding to provide home- and community-based care that enables older and disabled persons to remain healthy and independent, including raising the income eligibility limits for basic home care services and some cost-sharing requirements;
  • Development of a long-term care continuum that includes high quality, affordable skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, adult day health services, senior housing and home and community based services, to meet the needs of our aging population;
  • Full and adequate funding to maintain the 10-day nursing home leave of absence and the nursing home residents’ personal needs allowance;
  • Full and adequate funding of protective services, including adult guardianship, the FAST teams, and the Money Management Program;
  • Support for family caregiver assistance, including education and training, counseling, legal consultations, respite care, adult day services, and programs that help individuals pay relatives and friends who provide care;
  • Funding to create a “common application option” for MassHealth applicants to get SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and sufficient case worker funding to support increased SNAP caseload; and
  • Full and adequate funding for the Councils on Aging and Senior Centers.

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