State cuts affect La. Council on Aging

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

vidalia &8212; Budget cuts affecting the Concordia Council on Aging has some feeling a solution to the financial shortage is out of their hands.

The COA, a non-profit corporation that assists senior citizens age 60 and over, is one of 64 councils in Louisiana and being forced to make changes.

&8220;Our situation has not improved,&8221; Council Director Dorothy McDonald said. &8220;We are still trying to deal with the cuts and stay under our budget.&8221;

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The COA assists the elderly in activities such as information and assistance, provides congregate meals, recreation, wellness and medication management. The COA also helps in homemaking, education and transporting citizens to doctors, stores and other destinations.

America Dunbar, who is in charge of transportation, had her hours cut back to alleviate some of the expense of high gas prices.

&8220;I was working four hours, and now I&8217;ve been cut back to three and a half,&8221; Dunbar said. &8220;Now we do it as fast as we can and it doesn&8217;t allow them to spend as much time in the stores and places like they should be able to. The seniors really and truly need their transportation.&8221;

Cuts, McDonald said, come from the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina among other things and are occurring statewide. Letting go of two site assistants and the voluntary resignation of a site manager and a home delivery route employee has trimmed the staff of Concordia&8217;s council down.

&8220;Folks have had a terrible time with Katrina, and it has decreased a need for this,&8221; McDonald said. &8220;We are in need of funds, and anybody that wants to donate is welcome to.&8221;

United Way assists the council with donations, McDonald said, but is not enough to support the operating costs. The council is in need of two computers and more staff, McDonald said.

At Monday&8217;s lunch seniors gathered waiting on meals and talked of the way the budget cuts are affecting them.

&8220;It hurts me because if I had to go to the doctor, I can&8217;t get there,&8221; Clarence Powell said on transportation availability being lessened.

Emell Hargrove said the budget cuts and the strain they put on others daily routine don&8217;t really affect him.

&8220;I just live five or six blocks from here, so I just walk,&8221; Hargrove said. &8220;Individuals just sitting around are doing nothing but getting lazy. If an individual gets out there and searches, he might get five or six blocks before he knows it and there&8217;s no telling where he&8217;ll end up.&8221;

Hargrove&8217;s opinion of a solution to the problem was placed in the hands for judgment of another.

&8220;I just take it and put it in God&8217;s hands,&8221; he said. &8220;God knows it all, and He will take care of it all.&8221;