UPDATE: Ingham County voters overwhelming supported this measure, passing it by a margin of 76% in favor to 24% against. (The article below was published on July 23, 2020.)
Currently, more than 57,000 senior citizens reside in Ingham County and, as of May 31, over 200 are on waiting lists to receive assistance with personal care, household chores, and respite programs for caregivers.
Ingham County’s proposed Elder Persons Millage seeks to close this gap in services at a time when Ingham County’s number of senior citizens—defined as those age 60 or older—is projected to continue rising.
The millage language proposes “to eliminate wait lists and expanding critical services such as in-home care, meals on wheels and crisis services to support the growing population of persons age sixty (60) and older residing in Ingham County.”
According to Mary Ablan, a longtime advocate for seniors and leader of the Vote Yes for Seniors in Ingham County campaign, the millage would support seniors facing both medical crises and chronic conditions to receive in-home care in a timely matter.
“Generally, you never plan for a crisis,” Ablan told ELi. After the crisis, seniors finds themselves “scrambling with family members to figure out what to do” once a medical issue, such as a stroke, heart attack, or bout of pancreatitis occurs.
After a senior’s condition has been stabilized in a hospital, it is often unclear what to do next. While some seniors may opt to enter a rehabilitation center to continue their recovery, Medicare limits treatment and length of stay in such facilities.
For some seniors, a rehabilitation center is not an option. Ablan argues that, just like everyone else, seniors have responsibilities that their health conditions might complicate. “Maybe they have a pet. Who will take of it? Maybe they are a caregiver for a spouse or grandkid.”
The millage—if passed—would support some existing programs, such as Meals on Wheels and generate funds to develop new programs that would provide home repair, classes for seniors living with chronic conditions like diabetes, and other crisis services.
Ablan is optimistic that the millage would support the local economy by creating jobs and making it possible for family caregivers to join or rejoin the workforce.
Although Ablan was not involved in bringing the initial proposal to the County Board of Commissioners, she explained that the Tri-County Office on Aging, which services Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham Counties, raised the issue of seniors lacking access to in-home services.
Unlike 76 other counties in Michigan, Ingham County does not currently have an elder persons millage.
The 0.30 mill would be expected to generate about $2.3 million dollars a year for four years and would not affect other local and state funds allocated for seniors.
ELi is not aware of groups that have come out specifically in opposition to this millage, although some local taxpayers have raised a general objection to the amount and number of property taxes. This form of objection has become more common in East Lansing since the passing of the city’s income tax in 2018, a tax set to last 12 years in total unless renewed.
Earlier today the East Lansing City Clerk’s office provided more information about the upcoming election, including information about how to vote absentee. Read that information here.