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Major cuts to Meals on Wheels program

by Sherrie Williams
The federal sequestration order on March 1, will have a potentially devastating impact on Friendly Door Senior Citizen's Center if projected cuts to the program remain in place.

Friendly Door recently received notice that they could lose as much as 50 percent of their funding because of the sequester, which requires uniform cuts across programs regardless of cost-effectiveness.

According to Friendly Door Executive Director Jeri Vassar, she received an email from Nortex Area Agency on Aging stating funds were frozen and they do not know when or if they would receive funds to be distributed to senior citizens centers.

Vassar said at that point the March invoices she had submitted had not been funded, and that was the last week of April. However, she did receive funds on Monday for the March invoices but has no idea if the April invoices will be funded.

Should the center lose the funding it would amount to approximately $120,000, or half of the center's annual budget. The funding helps support the Meals on Wheels program, as well as transportation and daily meals served at Friendly Door.

There are 100 senior citizens in and around Iowa Park who benefit from the Meals on Wheels program. The program means much more to many than just a warm nutritious meal. For some, the volunteers who deliver the meals are the only people they see and talk with.

In addition to the Meals on Wheels clients, approximately 75 clients eat at the center daily, and 15 regularly use the center's transportation program, according to Vassar.

This is the second funding cut the center has faced in the last several months.

The center contracts with Nortex and the Department of Aging and Disable Services (DADS) annually and the amount they receive is determined by current expenses and income at the center at rate renegotiation time.

In 2012 the rate was negotiated in August. However, on October 1, the center received a letter stating that 40 percent of the their funding was being cut due to budget cuts from federal levels. The cuts were effective the day Vassar received the letter at the center.

At that time Vassar and the center's board members went to work and adjusted the center's budget to absorb the cuts.

However the latest threat of cuts, if they should happen, would make it difficult for the center to sustain current levels of operation.

"We have a small contingency fund available to us, and if funding is cut completely we could operate approximately four months after we lose it," said Jeri.

According to Vassar, upper management of Nortex and DADs keep reiterating that they hope for a resolution and fund allotment quickly, but no one knows at this point how much funds will be reallocated.

"The problem is a direct result of the sequestration put into effect by Congress. Cuts were made to the Older American Act Funding, thus we are in this predicament," said Vassar.

She is encouraging people to contact their representatives in congress and let them know how the funding cut will impact the senior citizens in the community.