About 40 senior citizens told the County Council yesterday that County Executive Robert R. Neall's budget will cripple their efforts to help other seniors.
"His plan is just a slap in the face for the seniors," said Frances Jones, a member of the board of directors of CASOS, a senior citizens group.
Jones addressed the council yesterday to protest the portion of the $4.5 million Department of Aging budget that calls for trimming funds for CASOS (County Administered Senior Opportunities and Services). The same budget calls for cutting the number of outreach workers assigned to help needy seniors through CASOS from five to three.
Neall's budget would save the county $46,000 by cutting the 23-year-old organization from the county organizational chart and letting it function as an independent agency.
CASOS, which recently won non-profit status from the IRS, would receive a $50,000 grant from the county and continue to have free use of first-floor office space in the Arundel Center North in Glen Burnie for its crafts shop.
The county currently spends $189,000 to pay CASOS' director, its administrative assistant, five full-time outreach specialists and two part-time clerks at the store.
In addition to the $50,000 grant, Neall's budget calls for spending $93,000 for an administrative assistant and three outreach workers, who would handle the duties now assigned to CASOS workers.
County officials said CASOS employees will be eligible to apply for those four positions, but they could make no promises about hiring them.
But Jones and others said that neither the $50,000 grant, nor the store office space will be sufficient to keep the organization going, and that the cut in outreach workers will hurt those who need it most.
"It's like taking the wings off a butterfly, it's like taking the engine out of a car," said Gladys Bellows, a volunteer in the organization. "They are giving us nothing." Advocates say the group has helped needy seniors with everything from meals and medicine to utility bills.
Dr. Carol Baker, director of the county Department of Aging, said the impact would be minimized because many of the services performed by CASOS are already provided by other county and state agencies.
She said the reorganization was recommended by a county Budget Office study in 1987 and by Neall's transition team study of county government in 1991.