Advocates for Colorado's older residents sighed in relief when Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed into law the $19 billion budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Although the budget did not increase funding for home- and community-based services for seniors, it didn't cut it, which had been a possibility.
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They were even more pleased because a successful eleventh-hour lobbying effort by AARP Colorado and other groups set the stage for additional money to flow to senior services. The provision, which received bipartisan support, requires that unclaimed funds in the state's Senior Property Tax Homestead Exemption — which pays a portion of the taxes of those who apply — go to Colorado's Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) to help provide services to help people stay in their homes.
Although it is unclear how much money will be available, the amount unclaimed in 2008 (the last year the exemption was funded) was about $770,000.
Show of support
AARP Colorado and other groups had kept up pressure at the statehouse for months, pushing for an increase in the approximately $9 million in various parts of the budget that fund home- and community-based services. When it appeared money for senior services might be slashed, AARP Colorado organized a show of support — busing more than 80 older people to the Capitol from around the state.
In the end, the funding remained. Kelli Fritts, AARP Colorado's advocacy director, described the outcome as a victory in a year of cuts elsewhere in the state budget. But even maintaining previous funding levels is insufficient at a time "when there have been such dramatic increases in requests for senior services that the waiting lists are often weeks or months long," she said.
Colorado's population of residents 60 and older has been growing much faster than many other states and will continue to do so: The state's Older Americans Coalition projects a 50 percent increase to more than 1.2 million by 2020 — about 4.5 times the growth rate of younger age groups.
In May there was a two-month waiting list for home meal delivery and three months for visiting nurses in the Denver area, said Jayla Sanchez-Warren, director of the AAA at the Denver Regional Council of Governments.