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The Call and Post recognizes the need for this critical levy to aid in Cuyahoga County’s ability to provide essential health and human services to county residents in need. That levy is ISSUE 33, VOTE March 17;

I want to reiterate our support.

CLEVELAND - A program that allows senior citizens with disabilities to remain living in their homes instead of a much more costly assisted living facility would see spending cuts if Cuyahoga County voters fail to approve a health and human services levy in March.

Options for Independent Living provides in-home assistance for nearly 1,400 Cuyahoga County senior citizens. Services include medical transportations, home delivered meals and home making. Options clients have disabilities such as using a cane or walker, continuous use of oxygen and blindness or low vision. Most live by themselves.

Options’ seniors are not frail or poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Ninety-four percent of Options clients earn less than $25,000 annually.

Betty of Cleveland depends upon the Options program to remain in her home. She has numerous medical issues. She can perform some household duties such as cooking, but needs assistance with other tasks such as laundry.

Sandra of Parma Heights uses a wheelchair and a walker. She can’t take the garbage to the curb for collection and needs help with other household chores, though she, too, cooks for herself. She wants to continue to live in her house. She said, without the Options workers who regularly visit her she would not be able to.

The Options program costs the county about $350 per month per client. Without these services, most of these senior citizens say they would not be able to live in their home. It costs about $4,000 per month for assisted living and approximately $6,000 per month in a nursing home. Many of these seniors would be facing that alternative and, because they have little money, the public could pay for those much more costly alternatives.

“This isn’t a threat, it’s reality,” said David Merriman, Interim Cuyahoga County Director of Health and Human Services. “If the levy fails, we will have to go through all of the county services provided by the health and human services levy and determine where to cut costs. The Options program would certainly absorb some cuts, as would many other projects paid for by the levy.”

The state and federal governments have cut funding to Cuyahoga County in recent years, which has caused some of the financial strain within the health and human services budget.

Issue 33 is a replacement property tax levy of 4.7 mills to help pay for health and human services in Cuyahoga County. It would replace an existing 3.9 mills levy that is scheduled to expire this year. The increase of 0.8 mill would cost property owners about $41 more a year – about $3.50 more per month – for every $100,000 in property value.

About 400,000 people in Cuyahoga County access the wide array of services provided by the health and human services system. Services include caring for children who are at risk of abuse and neglect, helping to treat mental illness and addictions and senior citizens with disabilities.

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