Story updated on July 23, 2021
RALEIGH -- North Carolina hasn’t passed a budget since 2018, due to an impasse largely over Medicaid Expansion and teacher raises. Now, with several years’ worth of increased state revenue, and with the significant COVID response federal funds (American Rescue Plan), the proposed budgets from both the Governor and the House include increases in funding for many of AARP priority issues.
The Senate’s proposed budget was released June 21st and is now being considered by the House. The proposal would spend $25.7 billion in 2021-22 and $26.6 billion in 2022-23. The Senate is proposing tax cuts, including cutting the personal income tax rate to 3.99% by 2026.
We may need your voices as we are working on the House side now to make sure these items are retained in the budget (or enhanced), including better support for the direct care workforce, and increases in the long-term care special assistance personal needs allowance and adult protective services.
Here is a list of some of the priority items in the Senate budget:
Improving Long-Term Care With aging, comes the necessity for quality long-term care (LTC). COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in North Carolina’s LTC system. Key to quality is adequate staffing.
Staff shortages were a problem before COVID and were only exacerbated during the pandemic. In the short-term, additional funding is needed to increase wages as well as "hazard" pay to attract the needed work force.
In the long-term, a more comprehensive approach must be developed to address the direct care workforce shortage through recruitment, training and retention. This shortage includes caregivers both in facilities and in homes.
The Senate budget includes a one-time bonus payment of $1,500 for eligible Medicaid-funded direct care workers. While this increase is sorely needed, we’d like to see the increase be a recurring wage increase instead of a bonus. Their budget also included an increase in the Temporary Assistance Payments to Facilities that serve Special Assistance (SA) recipients (a monthly payment of $70 per SA recipient/per month) and Increases to the Special Assistance Personal Needs Allowance from $46 to $70 a month.
These two increases allow people in Adult Care Homes to have funds for basic personal needs items (toiletries and clothing) and to provide facilities with a one-time boost for facilities which have not seen their payments increased at an adequate rate for a number of years.
Addressing Elder Abuse:
Unfortunately, the pandemic has also compounded the need for increased state funding of Adult Protective Services to help combat elder abuse that research shows only increases with social isolation.
Adult Protective Services investigates allegations of abuse, caretaker neglect, self-neglect, and exploitation of elderly and disabled adults. Rising caseloads demand greater funding so staff may spend enough time with clients and investigate abuse, neglect and exploitation complaints.
The Senate Budget includes a long-needed boost to this program with nearly $2.6 million in non-recurring funding to support Adult Protective Services. AARP would like to see this increase be made permanent
Providing Transportation Assistance to Essential to Essential Services for the Elderly and Disabled:
The Senate budget included additional funding for key programs that help the elderly and disabled get to critical services, such as medical appointments. The funding proposed is as follows:
- $209,718 non-recurring funds for Rural Transit Assistance Program
- $781,873 non-recurring funds for Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Persons with Disabilities
Without this funding there is little to no option for transportation for some of our state's most vulnerable and isolated citizens.
The House has announced that they will not be rolling out their budget until early August. The Senate and House will then “conference” and hopefully agree to a budget before Labor Day.
This fall, the work continues with the Legislature return in the fall for redistricting.
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