TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Margie Chase is fighting painful arthritis and struggles to walk in and out of her home. She thought a ramp, offered through a nonprofit, would be the answer.
She started with a local nonprofit and then received calls from several others, as the project was funneled through nonprofits and vendors.
After she was first told she was approved earlier this year, she removed the old, rotting deck and stairs to prep the area for the new accessible ramp. But months later, she received a letter saying the project was on hold, leaving her with no solution to adding a safe way to enter or exit her home through the front door.
“If there’s a fire in my kitchen, how would I get out the front door? I’m basically a little crippled. I just can’t jump off,” Chase said.
The letter about putting the project on “pause” came from the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco/Pinellas, which was coordinating the project. The letter explained that the pause was at the direction of state officials at the Department of Elderly Affairs.
Chase said her heart sank.
“How can you tell me two months ago I’m approved, you have the funding and now you don’t’ have the funding?” Chase said.
Worried that she might be stuck with no way to enter and exit her home through her front door, she called Better Call Behnken for help.
Consumer Investigator Shannon Behnken reached out to the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco/Pinellas.
Executive Director Ann Marie Winter said she looked into the issue and said Chase was among many whose project was put on hold due to a pause in state funding. However, she said the hold has been lifted and she had good news for Chase: the ramp is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Part of the hold up, Winter said, is that the cost of everything Chase needs is a bit over the individual $6,000 limit on this program, but she said the agency plans to dip into another program’s funds, to make sure they have enough money to give Chase what she needs to safely get in and out of her home.
Winter said the home modification program has been a success.
“We have served a total of 262 seniors, 116 in Pasco County and 146 in Pinellas County, through the Home Modification program since January 1, 2023 at a cost of $527,136.61,” Winter wrote in an email. “This program helps seniors to remain in their homes and avoid nursing home placement by making home modifications that will help them age in place.”