The Minnesota Senior Federation, which has been a pioneer in many elder rights efforts, is asking its membership to vote this month on dissolution. The Federation’s board voted in May to start the process of shutting down the organization. Ballots were sent to members to ask for their vote. If approved by the general membership, the Federation would shut down as soon as July. The Federation is about $100,000 in debt. The group has a proposed budget in 2009 of $1.1 million, but is only on target to raise about $600,000 of that amount. The organization has gone from having as many as 20 employees to one full-time and three part-time staff.
A bad economy and loss of sponsors, as well as declining membership, have hurt the Federation. Membership has fallen from more than 40,000 to about 9,000. Fewer seniors joining the group, as well as competition from AARP, have been factors. “I never expected to preside over our funeral but the money’s just not there to continue,” said Barbara Kaufman of Plymouth. She chairs the group’s board. The Federation had been a lobbying force at the state capitol for many years. It began as collaboration among senior citizen clubs and activist, working on a range of issues. It was considered a model for other groups around the country. The Federation led the way in the charge for tax and health care reforms, pension rights, and other issues. It also pioneered bus trips to Canada, so that senior citizens could buy cheaper medications. The group also sued the federal government over a Medicare payment system that rewarded higher-cost states, such as Florida, over Minnesota.
Senior News, a quarterly newspaper, and a resource guide for seniors, are among the group’s publications. It also has operated a health care information center and Senior Partners Care, a program that helps about 21,700 low and moderate-income people on Medicare get help from medical professionals who agree not to charge co-pays. An announcement will be made soon about the fate of Federation programs. [Source: Star Tribune, Minnesota Senior Federation]