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Alameda County cuts funds for the elderly

Saturday April 20, 2002

By Bruce Gerstman 

Special to the Daily Planet 


Helping the elderly in the East Bay just got more expensive. 

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to authorize the Alameda County Agency on Aging to decrease by about $70,000 grants to local groups that serve the elderly. 

"We were instructed by the state to reduce the allocation," said Joe Rodriguez, director of the agency. 

When a reporter told the Berkeley-based Alzheimer Services of the East Bay, which runs a day care service for Alzheimer’s patients, that the new budget meant an $8,500 cut for the agency, the executive director said she was not surprised.  

"Last year we had a decrease, too," said Karen Grimsich. After 14 years of a steady $166,000-a-year budget from the state, the group’s funds were slashed by $6,500 last year. 

Grimsich said families cannot afford the $75 daily charge to use their day care, so they use state funds to subsidize the rest. She said families pay as little as $17 each day, and more often about $40-50. "Now we're going to have to fund-raise," to subsidize the service, she said. 

"We do make up the difference, but these nonprofits like us end up holding the bag," Grimsich said about services for the elderly. "What are you going to do, not take care of them?" 

The funding comes from the state's Community Based Service Program, which will now give away about $1 million less than last year, said Rodriguez. That means Alameda County will lose 3.18 percent, or about $19,000, of the $600,000 it generally gets. 

California is now struggling to soften a deficit estimated at more than $17 billion. And the state is trying to find ways of trimming costs, said John Carr, the assistant director of external affairs for California's department of aging. 

"We didn't reduce funding for programs. Only for operating costs," Carr said. 

The budget analyst team that focuses on aging was in Stockton at a conference and could not be reached for comment.