Given the $3 billion hole in Florida's finances, programs to keep frail elderly people out of nursing homes fared remarkably well in Gov. Charlie Crist's budget proposal released Friday.
None of the programs that provide meals, transportation, home health care and other services lost funding. The Aged and Disabled Adult program financed through Medicaid will even gain $6 million next year if the Legislature agrees with Crist.
The governor "has been a very strong supporter of seniors for a long time,'' said Elder Affairs Secretary Doug Beach. "He understands that these are very good programs.''
That's good news for Janet Williams of New Port Richey, who takes care of her husband Mitchell around the clock. Florida's Home Care for the Elderly program pays for a junior college student in the neighborhood to lift Mitchell from his bed to a chair and to sit with him when Janet Williams needs to get out of the house.
When Crist asked all agencies early this month to submit tentative 10 percent budget cuts, Elder Affairs proposed to eliminate the Home Care program entirely. A story in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times described how Janet Williams and other poor caregivers depend on Home Care as a financial lifeline.
"I'm thrilled,'' she said Friday. Her air conditioning and heating has gone on the fritz due to leaky ducts. Home Care case workers agreed to pay for repairs. "It was going to cost $700,'' she said, "and by the time I pay for food and bills, I don't have $700."