WMCA receives $200,000 grant to fund Keeping Seniors Home program
EAST WILTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that Western Maine Community Action, based out of East Wilton, will receive a $200,000 grant aimed at helping senior citizens continue to live in their own homes.
The Rural Community Development Initiative Grant will fund the WMCA-organized Keeping Seniors Home program, which has been operated on federal and foundation pilot funding since 2003. Since then, WMCA and 10 community action agencies located throughout the state have assisted nearly 1,900 elderly homeowners by investing more than $9.5 million in repairs, weatherization and accessibility improvements to their homes.
"It's a program we strongly believe in," WMCA executive director, Fenwick Fowler said Wednesday. "Most seniors want to live in their homes their whole lives."
Seniors forced to leave their homes, either due to accessibility issues or excessively-high home repair or energy costs, Fowler said, caused a significant financial hardship for their families. In a report issued by WMCA to the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission, the agency cited a Genworth Financial survey that pegged the average annual cost of nursing home care in Maine at more than $96,000, the average annual cost of assisted living care at more than $54,000 and the average annual taxpayer share of Medicaid costs for eligible senior citizens in nursing home facilities at more than $22,000.
The program meets with seniors who own homes, Fowler said, develop an action plan and then organize loans and/or grants to pay for the work. The report to the housing commission indicated that $700 in program funding, per senior, resulted in an investment of roughly $5,275 in the senior's property.
"Low-income elders cost taxpayers the most if they become totally dependent," the report indicated, under the header "lessons learned." "Extending the elder homeowners ability to remain at home is the least costly public investment."
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel indicated her approval for the federal decision to fund the program, as part of a statement released Tuesday.
“I am very pleased that Western Maine Community Action has received our Rural Development grant," Manuel said, "which will allow them to have a major impact on services to area seniors, including training professionals to work with them to make informed choices on energy efficiency improvements to their homes, as well as addressing other critical needs that will allow many Maine seniors to continue to live independently.”
Congressman Michael Michaud also praised the announcement, in a statement released Tuesday.
“This investment will allow Western Maine Community Action to continue providing valuable assistance that helps Maine seniors continue to live in their homes,” said Michaud. “Ensuring that the homes of Maine’s elderly residents are safe, secure, and efficient helps our seniors preserve their independence, supports the local economy, and creates jobs.”