Commission Continues Fight for Elderly Entitlements

At the epicenter of economic downturn, the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission will hold their next council meeting on April 19th, hoping to tackle the issues for local government that they can’t do themselves.
The Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, or NEGRC, serves as a government planning and workforce development group for 12 counties from Barrow to Walton County. Aging services, a third and vital program for the elderly in these counties, help to provide financial and physical assistance to senior citizens in the area.
“Relatively unknown by the general public, [NEGRC] works for and are owned by Georgia’s local governments, existing to provide services and work on matters of regional importance,” said Dave Wills, government relations manager for Athens-Clarke county. “The regional commissions are an indispensable adjunct to counties and cities, leveraging local resources with state and federal funds to produce greater results than could otherwise be attained.”
NEGRC continues to fight for the elderly in giving them support to live without difficulty. Anne Hansen, program monitor for the Area Agency on Aging sector of NEGRC, reported at their January 2011 meeting that four grants has been awarded to them, including the Rosalyn Carter Institute Grant and the CDSMP Grant – Live Well Age Well Georgia.
“There could be information concerning grants that have been applied for or received,” said Mott Beck, executive assistant for NEGRC.
Although the last conference did not discuss economic development for Clarke County, NEGRC strives for the betterment of our neighboring counties. Renovations and innovations for the local government, such as a new tourism office in Watkinsville and rebuilding the Oglethorpe County courthouse, demonstrate the ability of a small group to enact widespread help.
“The primary speaker will be Jack Spruill, marketing director for the Georgia Department of Agriculture,” said Mott Beck, executive assistant for NEGRC. “Four of our counties will make reports on items of interest.”
AARP, the Georgia Council On Aging, and the Alzheimer’s Association have joined forces with the NEGRC to protect the funding of the elderly not only in the local government but in the Georgia General Assembly. All four groups advocate to protect the funding of the elderly, which is being recommended for restoration in the fiscal year of 2012 and 2013.
With the Grand Bargain – the budget proposal wishing to cut entitlement programs such as Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security – looming in Washington, the NEGRC hopes to remain fighting for the rights of its seniors.
The meeting will feature a report from information and referential specialist Michael Dock on the “Money Follows the Person” program, hoping to help recipients of Medicare.
“States are facing major budget shortfalls,” is the headline of the most recent flyer floating around from ADAPT, a community of disability and elderly activists for entitlement programs. “Major Medicare/Medicaid funds are being proposed at the federal level and are in the cards for most, if not all states.”
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 created the “Money Follows the Person” program as a way to allow long-term patients to enter the community for six months, installing incentives for communities to provide care for Medicaid recipients to enhance their quality of life. Nursing home residents above the age of 65, according to Mathematica Policy Research in 2007, accounted for 75 percent of these possible recipients.
“It is a win-win,” says ADAPT. “People with disabilities get the choice to live in the community and states get the needed resources to rebalance their long term service systems to increase the availability of community based services.”
Athens-Clarke County reported 18.7 percent of the population, according to the 2010 census, receiving Medicaid public assistance. Older generations in Athens will cause a strain on Medicare/Medicaid as the “Baby Boomer” generation creeps into the retirement age.
The NEGRC continues to service the community in all ways possible. The work done by the commission will service the tri-county commission, creating a soapbox for the voiceless.
“In keeping with efforts as directed by Chairperson Brooks, RC staff continues to find ways to make the wisest use of available funds,” said Martha J. Beck, executive assistant for NEGRC, in the January 2011 meeting notes.

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