August 4th, voters across the county will cast their ballots either in person or by mail for state and national primary elections for legislative, congressional posts, and local positions such as school board. As previously published in The Beacon, the ballot will also include several ballot initiatives. The Ionia County 911 service is seeking an $8.40/device/year surcharge on phone services to fund 911 services and improve technology especially radios communications with fire departments in the county. Also on the ballot, The Ionia County Commission on Aging (ICCOA) is seeking a renewal of their operating millage.
The Commission on Aging is a government agency charged with providing a wide variety of services to senior citizens in the county. While ICCOA is best known for it’s “meals on wheels” program that delivers nutritious meals to seniors in need of help with cooking, their mandate is wide-reaching. According to Laura Linebaugh, who is a member of the committee promoting the millage renewal, ICCOA also provides meals at several sites thought the county and administers the Senior Project Fresh program which distributes vouchers for seniors to purchase fresh produce at farm markets in their communities. They provide in-home assistance, transportation, and counseling related to issues such as AARP, Medicare/Medicaid, and taxes. ICCOA also provides support to caregivers, and a variety of wellness, educational, and social programs.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, ICCOA had plans to also open a senior day center to provide respite type care for seniors whose caregivers need support. Currently, those plans are on hold due to the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn. According to Linebaugh, currently, “providing core services to the seniors of Ionia County is our number one priority.” The pandemic has also changed their plans for the millage proposal. The current millage rate is 0.5. Initially, the Commission on Aging had plans to request an increase to 0.55 mills. That plan was scaled back in light of the economic conditions. If approved by voters, the millage would bring in $844,898 annually which represents 50% of their total budget. The remainder is composed of state, federal and grant funding.
ICCOA services are increasingly important says Linebaugh as moving forward, “demographics show the population in Michigan will have an even larger proportion of seniors than many other states. Eighty percent of seniors want to age in place and avoid going into care. ICCOA wants to be part of this solution. The services provided to the seniors of Ionia County make this far [most] economical choice possible.”
IMAGE: Ionia County Commission on Aging