At least 20 elder or disabled adults in Southwest Florida who have no money, no reliable family, a diminished ability to make their own decisions and nowhere to turn for support are among the Floridians feeling the sting of Gov. Rick Scott's record veto of $461.4 million in state funding last month.
Scott vetoed $750,000 in funding for public guardianships this year for indigent, incapacitated adults in Sarasota and Escambia counties. Lutheran Services Florida, a nonprofit agency that handles state-funded guardianships in these two counties, is now scrambling to serve 100 Sarasota County wards without pay, and has stopped taking any new cases.
"We know there's at least 20 on the waiting list," said Chris Card, chief operating officer for Lutheran Services. "We've had to lay off staff and reorganize our whole organization to support the public guardianships we have. It's not as robust a program as we want to offer them."
The moratorium means any elder unable to make decisions about where or how to live, and lacking enough money to live on, cannot be given protection by authorities unless attorneys and guardians take on the case for free. When wards placed in guardianships have enough assets to cover their expenses, those assets are used to pay the professionals who determine their fates.
The agency has resorted to such a freeze before, because of shortfalls in donations during the Great Recession. During that two-year period, according to Sarasota guardianship director Anne Ridings, the total number of new adult guardianship cases in the 12th Judicial Circuit dropped by 25 percent.(Continue Reading)
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Governor's veto strands indigent wards of state