As I mentioned when we began the Senate process for the FY19 Budget, MCOA requested changes to the proposals as submitted by our Governor (House 2) and the final House proposal (House 4401). Both included the lofty objective of $12/elder (a year ahead of schedule) but they both failed to restore the 3% cut issued in FY18, failed to fully fund the Service Incentive Grant program and neither funded the Elder Mental Health initiative (EMHOT). These structural deficiencies threatened to dramatically reduce local outreach and transportation services statewide; eliminate health promotion, age friendly, and economic security programs; and eliminate mental health services to hundreds of older adults in 48 communities.
Our allies in the Senate suggested a two prong approach to resolve these issues, and they submitted two amendments for consideration:
- #452 sponsored by Pat Jehlen and 23 co-sponsors advocated for full restoration of the Elder Mental Health Outreach Teams (EMHOT) program by funding an earmark in line item #5046-0000 for $500,000.
- #559 sponsored by Barb L’Italien with 26 co-sponsors increased the COA line item to $17m which would have help restore some of these programs while also funding the Formula Grant at $12/elder.
As the process progressed it was clear that the Senate was willing to correct the structural deficiencies but was not able to also raise the Formula Grant (FG) to $12 this year. (Note: that 20% increase in a line item for the FG would have been unprecedented). Though revenues are better than this time last year, they are still tempered by potential Federal cuts and the growing costs of MassHealth.
The Senate outcome includes:
- Restores the 3% cut from FY18;
- Raises the Formula Grant from $9.70 to $11/elder – as originally requested – a 12% increase in your local aid;
- Fully funds the Service Incentive Grant Program (SIG); and
- And fully funds Elder Mental Health initiative ($500,000).
This is one of the most significant budgets ever offered by the legislature and we strongly hope it is sustained in conference and signed into law at GAA.
For the record, we thank Senator L’Italien and Erin Riley for their efforts to provide an alternative path to supporting MCOA’s goals but with the Elder Behavioral Health Amendment passing (#452), we no longer needed passage of #559 and it was withdrawn.
If the Senate version holds thru the Conference Committee we should celebrate. Though we did not get the fantasy dream of $12/elder a year early, we did get everything we originally wanted this year. The Governor , the House and the Senate have been extraordinarily generous. And with the Governor and the House on record as well as 27 co-sponsors in the Senate, we have a great shot at $12 next year. So CELEBRATE – great teamwork to make all of this happen…
Thanks again to President Chandler, SWM Chair Spilka, Majority Leader Creem, Chair L’Italien, Vice Chair Cyr, Senator Jehlen and the rest of the Senate for all that you continue to do in support of municipal Councils on Aging. This is GREAT NEWS.
David P. Stevens
Massachusetts Councils on Aging