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Area senior citizens to see increased help during COVID-19

Programs that help senior citizens receive more services at home, thus cutting down on potential exposure and possibly being infected with the coronavirus, are getting a financial boost.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently announced that Texas Health and Human Services Commission is receiving nearly $54 million in federal funds to support older Texans and people with disabilities during the COVID-19 response. The funding will be used to support programs and services administered by the state’s 28 Area Agencies on Aging, which provide home-delivered meals, help with household chores, assistance with groceries and respite care or other services for family caregivers.

Shanna Burke, executive director of the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission, said this will directly service the most vulnerable population out there.

“It will make sure they receive the services they need, as well as additional services for the crisis,” Burke said, adding this will also allow the agency to serve more people than normal.

The majority of the funding is expected to go to care coordination, which is assistance in obtaining temporary, non-medical services such as personal care, home-delivered meals, caregiver relief, home maker/light housekeeping, health maintenance and emergency response devices.

In addition, there is assistance that provides limited medical transportation for services of South and Mid-County, according to information from the Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Texas.

Meals on Wheels is also covered under the program with Nutrition and Services for Seniors servicing Jefferson and Hardin counties and the Orange Community Action Association servicing Orange County.

Colleen Halliburton, director of the Community Services Division of the SETRPC, said specific figures have not been provided but it appears the agency will receive around $1.3 million.

The funding, which was appropriated as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act provides stabilization assistance for families of all ages.

“In addition, the act will allow more seniors to receive services at home,” Halliburton said. “Having more older adults receiving home-based services will lessen their potential exposure to large numbers of people, and so lessen their risk of being infected with the virus.”