AARP Wyoming to focus on retirement, caregiving and budget issues
By Sam Shumway, State Director
AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus said, “The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Every day, the staff and volunteers at AARP Wyoming give of themselves to benefit others.
Through tireless effort, we are able to contribute to Wyoming and its communities to help people 50+ and their families confront the challenges they face and embrace opportunities to the fullest extent. Our contributions take many forms, from partnering with local communities to install smoke detectors in the homes of older residents, to working with our congressional delegation to address the challenges our Social Security system is facing.
One area where our contributions can have a tremendous impact is our advocacy work with the Wyoming legislature. We consider this one of our most important responsibilities. Our Governor and Legislators are deeply committed to our state, and we all share a strong commitment keeping Wyoming healthy and vibrant.
As we look forward to advocating on your behalf in the upcoming legislative session, we will be monitoring and advocating for many issues. Rather than an exhaustive review of every issue we are following, in the interest of space, I wanted to share some information about a few of our priority issues.
Uniform Power of Attorney Act
The Problem: Power of attorney documents are being misused to financially exploit and defraud family members and acquaintances.
Over the past year, we have been working with a governor-appointed Elder and Vulnerable Adult Taskforce. This group’s broad charge was to “examine areas of concern regarding Wyoming’s elderly population.” The taskforce will be issuing a report in the coming weeks.
One of the more significant findings was that a power of attorney (POA), when misused, presents vast potential for financial exploitation of older and vulnerable adults. A POA is a legal document allowing someone to make financial decisions and act on behalf of another. While a POA can be a useful incapacity planning tool when used properly; because of the broad authority granted, lack of oversight, and sometimes unclear duties, a POA is all-too-often used for financial exploitation.
The Solution: Strengthen Wyoming’s POA laws. Wyoming’s current POA laws are sparse. They allow for creation of a POA, but don’t define much else. The Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) is a comprehensive law that has been adopted in 21 states, including all but one of our bordering states. The law aims to promote autonomy and to prevent, detect, and redress POA abuse. The UPOAA contains provisions that protect against abuse and exploitation. Enactment of the UPOAA will not stop every bad actor, but it will deter wrongdoing by creating clear standards and duties, defining legal remedies and penalties, and establishing greater protections for all parties involved.
Wyoming Work and Save
Too many Wyoming workers are at risk of being financially insecure at retirement. While saving for retirement can be difficult, people who have an employer-sponsored retirement plan are 15 times more likely to save. However, fewer than half of employees have access to a retirement savings plan through their employer.
Wyoming small businesses want to provide their employees with retirement savings account plans, but the reality is that the financial products market is complex and tough to navigate, especially given time constraints.
Senior Services Funding
With declining revenues to the State, Governor Mead took action after the last session, reducing the state’s budget by nearly $250 million. A large chunk of those cuts were to the Department of Health, with a $90 million reduction. This resulted in a $900,000 cut to Wyoming Home Services, and $1 million cut to senior centers.
To make matters worse, current revenue estimates are projecting another $150 million shortfall. It’s remains unclear how deficits will be addressed, but one thing is clear: Wyoming lawmakers are going to have to make difficult decisions in the upcoming session.
AARP Wyoming is currently evaluating how these and potential future budget cuts may impact the 50+ population. Reduction in funding or elimination of essential programs and service can have long lasting and sometimes unintended impacts.
For example, an individual may be able to remain at home because Wyoming Home Services is providing low-cost dialysis. A deeper cut to this program could result in elimination of in-home dialysis. That person would be forced to leave their home and move into an assisted or skilled nursing setting. This would result in a substantial increase in cost and potential decrease in quality of life.
The ever-growing and always-changing 50+ population constantly gives rise to new concerns and opportunities. AARP Wyoming’s commitment to advocating on behalf of what matters to you remains constant. During the 2017 legislative session, we look forward to working on these and other important issues and trust that our contributions will make Wyoming better for all.