He learns affordable housing & transportation are major concerns.
Frederick, Md (KM). Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md) was on hand Monday morning at Winchester Hall in Frederick for a roundtable discussion on the needs of senior citizens.
Melanie Cox, board president of the Advocates for the Aging of Frederick County, said that affordable housing is an urgent need for those 60 and over. “Our ALICE report has revealed in addition to the studies the county has done, that our need for senior housing is just continuing to increase,”: she said. “I think now for affordable housing for seniors, we have 53% of our population that needs affordable housing.”
ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. It’s a report issued by the United Way of Frederick County.
Senator Cardin said the federal government’s role in providing affordable housing has been shrinking for decades. But Congress is looking at expanding housing tax credit programs. “We did expand some of the tax credit programs. We are looking at expanding them more as we get to the next chapter of tax reform.”
Another need was transportation, especially para-transit, which takes seniors to doctor’s appointments. Nancy Norris, the Director of TransIT of Frederick County, told the Senator that the need for para-transit among seniors is growing, but funding from the state has remained flat for years. She said TransIT has had to turn down a number of requests from seniors. “People are very frustrated, starting to give our service, which people really value, a bad name because they’re frustrated. They need to get their medical appointments. If we want people to age in place and get to these services they need, transportation is key. And I think without some federal funding for this program, I don’t know how we’re going to do meet that need,”: says Norris.
Senator Cardin said Congress will look into this issue when it takes up a funding bill to rebuild the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
In her presentation, Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer said a community health needs assessment survey found that senior citizens also need drug and alcohol treatment,and mental health services. “When we look at what contributes to someone’s overall health and well being, only about 10% of that is clinical care. Maybe 20% is genetics. But the whole rest of it, it’s the social determinants: their economics; it’s their housing; it’s their food, nutrition, their exercise, all those other things,” she said.
During the roundtable, Cardin praised Frederick County for taking action on senior needs, and being creative in finding funding for services. But he said changes are needed to the federal health care system. “We don’t have a long term care policy in America. We don’t know what is long term care. We don’t define it. We don’t have a definition for long term care, basically,” he says. “We use, in some cases, nursing services and try to use those reimbursements. So it is a challenge.”
He also said that funding for Medicare and Medicaid are secure under the current budget approved by Congress. “There’s a lot of talk about cutting Medicaid. Medicaid was funded at 100%. There were no cuts in Medicaid in this budget. There’s comments about cutting Medicare. There are no cuts in Medicare in this budget. There’s full appropriations for this entire year starting October one,” Senator Cardin said. He also pointed out that the cost of living adjustment for Social Security recipients will go forward.
But, the Senator says, members of Congress and citizens need to keep an eye on these programs. “We still have a budget resolution that’s outstanding that could be used in the lame duck session that could cut Medicare and Medicaid. So it’s still a live issue for the remainder of this year,” Cardin says.
The over-60 population in Frederick County is projected to surpass the school age population by 2020.
By Kevin McManus