The compromise signed by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Tuesday marked a number of changes that will affect older adults.
According to the National Council on Aging, this legislation delays for two months the automatic, across-the-board sequester cuts that were scheduled to take effect with the new year. This means cuts are still possible in March, which would affect local residents.
Among those affects could be the availability of Friendship Meals for McPherson County and other Kansas residents. The meals are under the branch of Aging Projects Inc. out of Hutchinson, which serves older residents in 10 counties.
The program provides nutritious, well-balanced meals to seniors 60 and older. Meals are provided in congregate settings or through home delivery. There is no charge, but there is a suggested $3 donation.
Director Rozanna O'Brien said there is a chance of an 8.1 percent cut in federal domestic funding in March, which includes services provided through the Older Americans Act. This totals more than $100,000 for API.
This would hurt a budget that already is insufficient. This insufficiency is because API has received the same amount of state and federal dollars since 2009.
Expenses have increased while financial assistance has not. For example, the budget for gasoline was $1.89 in 2009. Food costs have increased 17 percent since then. API also served 18,000 meals above its goal for the previous fiscal year.
As a result of lack of funding, three Friendship Meals sites in Kansas already have been closed, and more are possible for the future.
The McPherson Friendship Meals kitchen serves communities in McPherson, Lindsborg, Lyons and Geneseo. Although O'Brien said it is unknown how McPherson County resident will be affected, cuts would force API to reorganize its structure.
“We have no choice,” she said. “Bottom line is, because we receive federal and state dollars, we have to be in the black. We will have to adjust the way we do business in order to meet that cut.”
Harold Davis, 85, McPherson County board member for API, said he doesn't foresee a large threat to the Friendship Meal program. But if funds should be significantly cut, he said it would hurt a lot of local older adults regarding their nutrition and social interaction. He said on an average day, about 15 McPherson, 30 Lindsborg, 6 Geneseo and a number of Lyons residents are served.
“Federal funding is drying up,” he said. “It's needed in McPherson.”
Information released by API said the organization receives 34 percent of its funding from the state and national level. The rest comes from businesses and individuals. Money donated from one community goes back to serve those area residents.
O'Brien said individuals can help by giving donations and volunteering. Sites also are less likely to be closed when they have more individuals eating meals, so she suggests older residents go as often as they can.
Page 2 of 2 - In addition, API pursues a number of grants.
“We're trying to be proactive and seeking funds any way we can, so we can continue to provide services to the people in McPherson and Lindsborg and the other 10 counties we serve,” O'Brien said.
Although the future is unknown, API administrators will meet in February to determine their plans for the various scenarios that are possible in March.