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Senior Fund awards $800,000 to St. Louis nonprofits, seeks new applications

Funding for the St. Louis City Senior Fund comes from a property tax approved by city voters in November 2016. So far, the fund has awarded grants to 17 local nonprofits.
Funding for the St. Louis City Senior Fund comes from a property tax approved by city voters in November 2016. The fund awarded grants to 17 local nonprofits in 2018.

Two years ago, St. Louis voters approved a property tax that funds assistance programs for older adults.

The St. Louis City Senior Fund, which administers the tax-generated revenue, awarded $800,000 dollars this year to local nonprofits. The organizations provide a range of free services for older adults to help them continue living in their homes.

Jamie Opsal, executive director of the fund, said the services, including utility assistance and home repair, fill a vital need in the community.

“Our population is continuing to age,” Opsal said. “At the same time, resources for older adults at both the federal and the state level continue to be cut or they just don’t grow.”

In July 2018, the Senior Fund awarded grants to 17 organizations, including Heat Up St. Louis, Rebuilding Together and City Seniors Inc.

To help coordinate their often-complementary programs for older adults, Opsal said the Senior Fund encourages the grant awardees to collaborate.

The result, she said, is a “better, more comprehensive service” for seniors.

Two grant recipients, Lutheran Senior Services and Housing Options Provided for the Elderly, have worked together to provide moving assistance for seniors in St. Louis. 

Through the partnership, the two organizations have helped older residents find apartments, cover move-in fees and furnish their new living spaces.

Michelle Wamser, director of service coordination at Lutheran Senior Services, said the goal is to help older adults live “safely and independently.”

“A lot of our seniors are on Social Security, so they’re usually very low income,” Wamser said. “If we’re able to provide them with some assistance financially, hopefully they can age in place a little bit longer.”

Funding for the St. Louis City Senior Fund comes from a property tax approved by voters in November 2016. The tax of 5 cents on every $100 of assessed value is expected to generate about $2 million per year.

St. Louis County voters narrowly rejected Proposition S in 2016, meaning Senior Fund services are only available to residents age 60 or above residing within the city of St. Louis. The ballot measure failed by a wider margin in St. Charles County.

The St. Louis City Senior Fund Board is now accepting Letters of Intent from local nonprofits through Nov. 27 for the next round of grant funding.

They expect to award an additional $800,000 in April 2019.

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan

Shahla Farzan is a PhD ecologist and science podcast editor at American Public Media. She was previously a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.