Area 1 Agency on Aging Faces Funding Challenges

Humboldt County supervisors have been told that the Area 1 Agency on Aging non-profit might decide to discontinue carrying out state-mandated senior assistance services for Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Potential changes to the agency were discussed at the April 5 supervisors meeting. Maggie Kraft, the agency’s executive director, said that state and federal funding for her group’s work has declined over the years.

She said the agency’s board may make a decision to “decline to serve as the area agency in the near future depending on how the other things that we’re doing pan out.”

The state’s requirements for carrying out programs that assist seniors are being met, she continued, but only through use of the agency’s reserves.

“It’s not about doing more with less — they want us to do the same with more but the more comes out of our pocket, not their pocket,” said Kraft.

The agency covers Humboldt and Del Norte counties, with 83 percent of the senior population served being in Humboldt. Its federal funding was established through the Older Americans Act and it’s one of 33 agencies on aging in the state.

The agency provides assistance referrals, caregiver training, an ombudsman program, senior advocacy and nutrition programs.

Asked what would happen if the agency decides to not continue providing the state-mandated services, Kraft said the state would first ask the two counties to take responsibility for the programs.

“We would tell the state that we can’t afford to do this anymore and their responsibility would then be to come back to the counties and say, ‘The agency that you contracted with to do this can no longer do this — what’s your plan?’” she told supervisors.

But counties “always have the right of first refusal,” she continued.

Kraft added that if the counties don’t take on the mandated senior programs, the state would look for another non-profit group to do it. A third, least preferable choice is for the state to run the programs.

The trigger of the change would be the continued use of the agency’s reserves. “We’re going to run out of money at some point, if we keep having to do that,” Kraft said.

Kraft added that the county would get plenty of advance notice on the agency’s decisions.

Her presentation also highlighted the agency’s development of a new four-year services plan. Residents can comment on it by calling 1-800-408-4636.

Kraft’s presentation also provided demographic information on seniors. In Humboldt County, there are 32,404 residents aged 60 years or older and Kraft said that the county’s senior population is “growing substantially.”