01/23/14 — GATEWAY will fund bus rides for seniors

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GATEWAY will fund bus rides for seniors

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 23, 2014 1:46 PM

A $30,000 hit on the Wayne County Services on Aging Budget almost stranded senior citizens who depend on GATEWAY vans for rides to WAGES meals sites in Goldsboro and Mount Olive.

However, GATEWAY Director Lynn Lamberth said that she could use $20,000 in rural operating grant funds to subsidize the riders and the Wayne County commissioners agreed to supply the remaining $10,000.

Wayne County Services on Aging Director Eryn McAuliffe told Wayne County commissioners on Tuesday that GATEWAY's decision to switch from a flat rate of $5.50 per ride to $3.82 per mile would force her to make further cuts in transportation.

To keep that from happening, Ms. McAuliffe asked commissioners for an additional $29,613.19 through June 30.

Failing to secure the money would mean cutting out the meal rides on Tuesdays and Fridays in order to stay within budget, she said.

State and federal budget cuts totaling $30,000 earlier this year had already affected the number of riders as well as the agency's in-home aid program.

Commissioner John Bell first made a motion to fund the entire $30,000. However, before the vote could be taken, Commissioner Ray Mayo offered an amendment to table the request to see if the Goldsboro City Council would contribute.

Bell told Mayo that he needed to understand how GATEWAY works.

There is an urban component that has city bus routes and a rural component that serves citizens in the county, Bell said.

At question are the rural routes, something the city has no part in, Bell said.

After Ms. Lamberth said GATEWAY could subsidize the riders, Mayo withdrew his motion and Bell amended his to provide $10,000.

The $3.82 per mile is GATEWAY's new rate to provide transportation for clients of such agencies as Services on Aging and the Department of Social Services that receives Medicaid reimbursement.

The amount needed for Services on Aging to provide the rides would have been as much as $45,000, Ms. McAuliffe said. It was reduced to the $29,613.19 because GATEWAY is continuing to allow agencies to pay Americans with Disabilities Act rates for qualified riders.

Ms. Lamberth told commissioners she knows that the new rate increase appears to be drastic. It is that way because GATEWAY has "grossly under billed" agencies for so many years, she said.

Ms. Lamberth said the new rate is one of the steps that the GATEWAY board is taking to try and fix what she called, "a very broken system."