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County eases burden on senior services fees

Cost-sharing program approved to help low-income seniors



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — To help those who struggle to pay senior services fees, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved a cost-sharing program July 25 for transportation and congregate programing.

Director of Senior Services Ruthie Brew said although the department receives funding for those services, there’s about a $100,000 cost gap. Additionally, there is a cost gap of about $30,000 for congregate meals and a $30,000 gap for respite programing.

“We are proposing we do a cost-share system, of course providing scholarships for those who are low income, but allowing others the ability to provide a portion of the fees,” Brew said. “This is in line with our funding regulations that say it is the division’s policy that all eligible Older American Act and state-funded services shall be subject to cost sharing.”

Interim County Manager Tim Merritt said the arrangement would be somewhat of a new policy where senior services will counsel seniors who are participating in their programs.

“They’ll talk to them and will determine how much these people can afford to pay,” Merritt said. “Based on the amount they can pay, they then will be paying some portion of the cost of services to get what they want.”

The department asks seniors to pay $2 each way for transportation, which lines up with the county’s Dial-A-Ride program.

“If for some reason, they can demonstrate to staff that they can’t afford to pay that, then we will work with them on a sliding scale,” Merritt said. “It would be similar for the congregate program where we’d do the same thing. We’d work with them based on their ability to pay.”

Some people now pay a full price for some things, Merritt said.

“This plan is more of an overriding policy of how the county would do business in the future for senior services to try to get everybody on a pay-as-you-can-afford program,” Merritt said.

Based upon income and medical expenses, there’s a sliding scale fee system which determines what percentage of services they pay for, Brew said.

“Our full price is not the actual full price, it’s the price we offer services at,” Brew said. “The actual price of our transportation, as estimated by the funding source, is $30 round trip. We are proposing to offer it at $4 round trip.”

Because some seniors make donations, and some pay nothing, there can be a sense of entitlement, Brew said.

“Certainly, we are there to serve those who don’t have the ability to pay,” Brew said. “We are the safety net, of course. But there is a broad range of socioeconomic groups in our program. The thought is those that have the ability to pay should contribute to the cost of services.”

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