Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 26, 2013

Antrim seniors face cutbacks

MANCELONA — Sherry Kuchon knows firsthand the importance of services offered to seniors by the Antrim County Commission on Aging.

Kuchon cares for her 90-year-old mother, Ethelene Henson, and 86-year-old aunt, Linda Murray, at Henson’s Mancelona-area home. Caring for the two women in their homes, in the twilight of their lives, is an act of love. But it’s also an exhausting endeavor.

Kuchon said she regularly turns to the county’s Commission on Aging (COA) staffers for her loved ones’ personal care and homemaker services when she finds herself stretched to the limit.

“Thank God for them,” Kuchon said. “They are wonderful people. I’ve met some of the finest, most caring individuals I’ve ever met in my life.”

But a shortfall in the COA budget has landed some of its services for seniors on the chopping block, including the ones offered to Murray and Henson. COA Director Mike Neubecker said the agency’s HomeMaker, Personal Care and Respite programs were suspended Friday because of a lack of money. The COA also laid off four homemakers and eight certified nursing assistants because of the financial crunch.

“Some of them have been with us at least 18 years,” Neubecker said. “I’m really sad about it. There are so many people in need within the community, and we just don’t have the financial wherewithal to meet all of those needs.”

Neubecker said the agency faces an immediate, estimated $67,400 budget shortfall. The agency has made deep cuts to programs and it’s $997,000 budget. Cutbacks include:

-- Discontinuation of spring/fall cleanup programs.

-- Elimination of summer lawn care program.

-- Cuts to in-home client service hours in November 2012 and again this October.

-- In January 2013, a sliding fee scale was established for the HomeMaker program instead of suggested donations.

-- In October a waiting list was established for all new in-home client service requests.

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