Davis County's senior citizen agency wants an exemption from a federal regulation requiring it to spend a set amount of its budget on lawyers for the elderly, saying it already provides adequate legal services.
Alice Johnson, director of the Davis Council on Aging, has filed for an exemption from the requirement, contained in the 1978 Older Americans Act. The stipulation requires that 2 percent of federal and state grant money be set aside for legal services for the elderly.Johnson said her agency last year spent about $5,100 on legal fees on behalf of its clients, split between two private attorneys in Davis County. That is more than twice what the federal regulation would have required, Johnson said.
Johnson filed the waiver request with the Davis County Commission, which held a required public hearing Wednesday at its meeting.
At the hearing, state legal services representative Steve Jennings said very few exemptions are requested and that Davis County's request will be scrutinized at the state and federal levels.
While not expressing his own opinion on the request, Jennings said he wants to ensure that Davis County's elderly residents are receiving the legal services required under the Older Americans Act.
Services outlined under the act include assistance with public benefits programs, aid in dealing with consumer fraud, tax assistance in certain cases, guardianship disputes, and other civil rights.
Johnson said the council paid for more than 170 hours of attorney time last year, a bill amounting to about $5,100. No person eligible for legal aid was turned down, she said.
But Johnson said that in years where the bill for legal services is less than that, and less than the 2 percent figure required by the federal government, the council would prefer to use the money for other programs.
Jennings agreed the system of hiring private attorneys in Davis County appears to be working adequately.
The commissioners tabled the request for further study, agreeing to put it back on their agenda for July 27.