Curtis Barker, chief financial officer for the Department of Elder Affairs, presents the department’s budget requests for the next fiscal year on Nov. 9, 2023. Credit: Jackie Llanos
Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs pitched a program to state lawmakers Thursday with a price tag of $10 million to improve housing conditions for elderly Floridians.
The new program would fund home improvement projects such as correcting code violations, making the home energy-efficient, and fixing health and safety problems, Curtis Barker, chief financial officer for the department, said during a House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meeting.
The initiative is part of the department’s legislative budget requests for the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1 and would represent approximately 10% of its total appropriation. Other requested items also pointed to housing problems, which Barker referred to as among most pressing issues elderly Floridians face.
“This program will ensure that elders can safely remain in their homes and communities as they age. All rehabilitation modifications and repairs can prevent falls, injuries, and illnesses among seniors, reducing the need for emergency services, hospitalizations, and nursing home placement,” Barker told committee members.
Municipalities and other organizations the department collaborates with would dispense the funds, Barker said.
The department requested another $10 million for an existing program that provides home-delivered meals, personal care, and transportation, among other services that help seniors with their daily routines. Almost 1,500 more people would be able to receive those services with the additional money, Barker said.
To help elderly people who live with their families, the department seeks $5 million for its Home Care for the Elderly Program. Currently, family members receive $160 per month — along with subsidies for medical equipment such as wheelchairs — to care for a senior. More than 1,300 additional people could start getting that monthly stipend, Barker said.
South Florida Rep. Marie Paule Woodson, the Democratic ranking member of the subcommittee, said she had received complaints from elderly folks in her district about the difficulty of obtaining information about housing programs.
Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy asked Barker how the department would inform people about the new program. He responded that they would work with municipalities and non-profits to spread the word.
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