|Bureau of Senior Services (BOSS) Commissioner Robert E. Roswall on Monday presented the BOSS budget to members of the House of Delegates Finance Committee.
The Bureau’s main request of the Legislature is the reauthorization of $6.8 million in West Virginia Lottery funds that allow the agency to provide a reimbursement rate increase for nutrition, the largest program offered to seniors.
COVID had a great impact on how the Bureau operates, particularly on the meal program, Commissioner Roswall said
“Since March 2020, we have increased from 2 million to just short of 3 million meals a year,” he told the committee. During COVID, agencies served 2,000 people they’d never seen before.
Commissioner Roswall said senior centers were closed during COVID but provided grab-and-go meals; some counties provided boxed weekly meals. Most of the funding for those meals came from federal COVID funds, he said.
COVID also affected the ratio of congregate versus home-delivered meals. It used to be 60% congregate and 40% home delivery, but now agencies serve more home-delivered meals. The reimbursement rate is greater for delivered meals than congregate meals.
“BSS provided guidelines for centers opening up. and most were opened by June 2022,” Commissioner Roswall said.
Going through the budget numbers, Commissioner Roswall said BSS has general revenue for personal services, and there are no changes.
Federal funds have helped provide a new data system that will be available in spring. The Commissioner described it as a “no-wrong-door” system, where all calls will be addressed and connected to the correct agency or service.
He said legislative initiative funds of $9.6 million from the West Virginia Lottery can be spent at the discretion of counties as long as counties meet the needs of the federal Older Americans Act.
Other services in the budget include the Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the Lighthouse and FAIR (Family Alzheimer’s In-Home Respite) programs for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.
Chief Financial Officer Terry Hess discussed a portion of the budget that appeared to be revenue but was actually spending authority. He said he would send clarified information to the Committee.
From the $117 million budget, Mr. Hess said the surplus of about $2 million will go toward meal rates.
“We have made some great strides to increase the reimbursement rate for nutrition,” Mr. Hess said, noting that nutrition is the biggest program at $16 million. Of that, 65% is state funding, and the rest is federal.
Delegate Larry Rowe of Kanawha County asked, “Are you okay on the reimbursement rate?”
Commissioner Roswall responded that there is a 13.5% increase currently in federal legislation, but it hasn’t passed yet.
“The number of meals being served has increased, but we don’t know what the federal funds will be yet,” he said.