Today the 55th session of the Arizona State Legislature begins, as the governor gives his State of the State address virtually. This legislative session, lawmakers will have a lot on their plate. We are living in unprecedented times, where cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from Coronavirus are higher than ever before, and the events over the past year have left us reeling.
Services offered by Pima Council on Aging, and other Area Agencies on Aging throughout the state, have been part of the bedrock response in Arizona to the Coronavirus pandemic, and will continue to be so during the recovery. Area Agencies on Aging have responded by serving more meals than ever before, increasing home care, grocery shopping, and caregiving services, and acting as advocates on behalf of older adults. The pandemic has also exposed weaknesses in our system.
Since 2016, PCOA and other Area Agencies on Aging throughout the state have advocated for increases in State funding for home and community-based services. Unfortunately, we have been largely unsuccessful. Home and community-based services include bathing, light housekeeping, bed linen changing, home nursing, grocery shopping, and so many more vital services that keep vulnerable older adults in their homes safely. From 2016 to today, minimum wage has increased by 34% in Arizona, but we have not received corresponding funding increases. This means Area Agencies on Aging have had to do much more with largely the same funds, while other state agencies and programs have received funding increases for offering the same services.
In order to continue to provide the same high-quality services that many in our community rely upon, the Area Agencies on Aging in Arizona need an increase of $5 million from the State's general fund. If we do not see an increase in funding to the Area Agencies on Aging many Arizonans who rely on these services could face longer wait times for services.
Please reach out to your legislators today to ask them for their support in providing home and community-based services to older adults in need through the Area Agencies on Aging.