Hamilton County plans to spend $1M on repair assistance program for seniors

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — Hamilton County commissioners plan to spend $1 million on home repairs for seniors in need starting in January.

Four months ago, the commission partnered with the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio to launch a utility and repair assistance program for people over 60 who qualify. The need arose when commissioners learned that seniors did not qualify for American Rescue Plan rent and utility assistance because they received social security checks, Commissioner Alicia Reece said during a Sept. 20 commission meeting.

“It’s really important for taxpayers from the standpoint if an individual can’t stay independent in their own home,” said Ken Wilson, vice president of program and business operations for the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio. “They end up moving into a nursing facility or a higher level of care which is very expensive. The cost of these preventive services delays those much more expensive care settings.”

Zelda White, 75, considers her home stair lift a life-saver.

“With that there, I can stay in the house and not worry going up and down the steps and not worry about falling again,” she said.

White’s left knee barely bends. Walking is difficult. The stage 3 breast cancer survivor who is between treatments lost her balance limping around her split-level home in Forest Park. She lived there for 22 years but immediately worried about her future. The cost of installing a stair lift required her to borrow money. With interest rates rising along with costs, she thought about selling.

“Where am I going to go?” she said. “What am I going to do? It’s getting so difficult up and down the steps. At one point, I was crawling up the steps.”

Wilson said the home repair program has helped older adults living on a fixed income who are struggling with the rising cost of inflation. The program buys ramps and railings, as well as fixes bathrooms, plumbing and electrical problems. They do not handle roof or cosmetic repair needs.

So far, the program completed repairs for 1,375 people, 229 homes with 64 projects pending, according to the Council on Aging. The average repair cost is $3,410.

The pilot program ran out of funding, though.

“We don’t want to put anyone off, particularly senior citizens,” Reece said during the Sept. 20 meetings.

The commission agreed to give the program another $1 million starting in January.

Between now and then there is no money. However, seeing the impact on people like White, the Council on Aging is trying to find ways to help.

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