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Hot summer, tight budgets affect elderly
Cooling assistance cut, but fans still available
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They were running out of fans at the Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center.

With temperatures approaching triple digits, employees at the Prior Street center already had given away 75 box fans to the elderly in a month’s time, and on Wednesday, had to purchase more.

“We still have people calling wanting to pick fans up,” said the center’s manager, Merry Howard, who was down to two fans Wednesday morning.

Demand for the fans is up this year, after the Georgia Department of Human Resources opted to forego funding a cooling assistance program that was administered locally by Ninth District Opportunity. The state money instead will be used to extend the heating assistance program offered in cold weather months, said Shawn Howell, lead services coordinator for Ninth District Opportunity.

The cooling assistance program, which provided grants of $350 to help pay power bills for qualified low-income residents, was popular.

Last year the agency provided cooling assistance to 1,320 people in a 13-county area, including 118 people in Hall County, Howell said.

The loss of cooling assistance has made a difference for the elderly living on tight incomes, Howard said. Not all those who ask for fans are without air conditioning, she said.

“Seniors are not necessarily turning on their air conditioning, because they can’t afford to,” Howard said. “So they’re relying on fans to circulate the air in their home.”

Other seniors have air conditioners that don’t work, and they can’t afford to pay for repairs, Howard said.

The Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center offers transportation to and from the facility for those who need to get in an air-conditioned environment for the day, Howard said. Volunteers are also available to make daily phone calls to shut-ins who need to be checked, she said.

The heat can affect the elderly more than others. And it’s not just the heat that poses a risk, it’s the air.

The air quality alert for today is orange, according to the Georgia Clean Air Campaign, meaning sensitive groups like the elderly, children and those with respiratory problems should avoid prolonged outdoor activity.

Howard said the fan giveaway is funded through donations, and anyone who wants to assist should bring box fans that are still in the box. Anyone wanting to donate fans, money or free air conditioning repair services should call 770-503-3351.

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