POMEROY — Concern about cuts in federal funding for services to the elderly should Congress allow sequestration (falling over the ‘fiscal cliff’) to happen on Jan. 2, has prompted Beth Shaver, executive director of the Meigs County Council on Aging, to initiate a letter writing campaign to Ohio’s Congressional representatives.
Shaver said that if that happens the cuts which will automatically take place will be devastating to many senior citizens who live on limited funds and depend on some assistance from agencies like the Council on Aging to stay in their homes and remain independent.
She is asking Meigs Countians to write their representatives and tell them how badly these cuts will affect them and the people around them and request that action be taken now to stabilize the country’s finances.
“It has been estimated that the results of no action from Congress will result in $54.5 billion in cuts,” said Shaver, “and if that happens it will have devastating effects on programs, such as those provided by Councils on Aging (which operate under the Older Americans Act) and help maintain older adults’ independence, health and well-being.”
On the federal level she said figures released by the government’s aging agency show that the direct effects that the sequestration would have on the millions of low income or vulnerable older adults would be a reduction of 17 million congregate and home delivered meals to seniors in need; 1.9 million senior transportation rides to medical appointments, grocery shopping and other primary needs; 290,000 older adults will no longer receive the case management that coordinates care essential to remaining at home, 1.2 million older adults will lose access to homemaker services that help them with basic daily housekeeping needs, and 1.5 million people will lose personal care services such as in-home assistance with bathing, toileting and dressing.
Shaver said action needs to be taken now to stop the reduction in funding for programs of assistance like services to older adults. She asks that letters of concern be sent to Rep. Sherrod Brown, 3480 E. Fulton St., Columbus, Ohio 43215; Rep. Bill Johnson, 246 Front St., Marietta, Ohio 43750; and Rep. John Boehner, 7969 Cincinnati-Dayton Road, Suite B, West Chester, Ohio 45069.
Turning to the local situation, Shaver said there has been so many reductions in funding from the Older Americans Act over the past several years that it’s been difficult to keep up.
“Now we’re threatened with even more reductions,” she added.
Referring to the local home-delivered meal program, she said in the past year the figure for support of that program has dropped from $37,345 to $31,929. According to Shaver, if the fiscal problem isn’t resolved, it will go down another eight percent next year.
“It’s happening so rapidly that we can’t keep up. The number of meals we deliver stays about the same, but as the federal money goes down we have to use more (local) levy money and do more fund raising to make up the difference.”
She said there has been a steady decline over the past several years in federal funding for programs for senior citizens, but that despite the decrease, the Meigs Center has supplemented with local levy funds and through fund raising efforts in the community to be able to continue it programs. However, she said with an additional cut it will become much more difficult to take meals to some who really need them.
“We’re not delivering any less meals now than we were several years ago, it’s just that when cuts come we have to add more of the levy funds and have more fund raisers in order to support the program. We’ve not discontinued any services, we’ve just raised money through other sources to provide them.”
She added that if the agency loses eight percent more of its funding on Jan. 3, it could mean having to consider reducing services or finding some new way to finance them. About 85 meals are being delivered now to home-bound Meigs County seniors.
As for providing transportation to local seniors to go see their doctor, to pick up groceries, to come to the Center — that money too is threatened. Shaver said that in 1999 transportation funding was $58,000. Today it’s $28,000 with probable cuts coming.
“This is the worst it’s ever been,” said Shaver, “and now I’m at the point of being not just worried, but scared, because I’m not sure what we can do.”