Sunday, July 6, 2008

ELDERLY HIT BY FUEL COSTS

John Leland, New York Times - Faced with soaring gasoline prices, agencies around the country that provide services to the elderly say they are having to cut back on programs like Meals on Wheels, transportation assistance and home care, especially in rural areas that depend on volunteers who provide their own gas. In a recent survey by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, more than half said they had already cut back on programs because of gas costs, and 90 percent said they expected to make cuts in the 2009 fiscal year. . .

Public agencies of all kinds are struggling with the new math of higher gas prices, lower property and sales tax revenues and increases in the minimum wage. Some communities have cut school bus routes, police patrols, traveling libraries and lawn maintenance. The St. Paul Police Department is encouraging officers to use horses and bikes. A number of state agencies, including those in Utah, are going to four-day workweeks to save energy costs and reduce commuting expenses for their employees. . .

A recent survey by the group concluded that home health and hospice workers drove 4.8 billion miles in 2006 to serve 12 million clients. . . The agencies, which have suffered from Medicare cuts in recent years, are lobbying Congress to account for fuel inflation in reimbursement rates and to reinstate special increases for providers in rural areas, a program that expired in 2006.

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