Sequestration Impacts Hitting Home

Guest Editorial

REGIONAL—(October 1, 2013)  Volunteers of America, Senior CommUnity Meals is just the latest among many government-funded programs that are being impacted by Federal Sequestration cuts. The toughest thing to face is that these aren’t just “budget cuts” – they are “people cuts” – and they are hitting the most vulnerable of our population, our senior citizens.

  Volunteers of America is a charitable organization with a long history of serving the most vulnerable among our communities – serving people is “why we do what we do.” Many seniors in Delta, Montrose and San Miguel counties have worked hard all their lives, just to find that their golden years, the money just doesn’t go as far as it needs to go. VOA has chosen for the past four years to fund the program from reserves, but lost more than $400,000 last year alone. Increased need and reduced donations have put a crush on the program that VOA cannot afford to continue supporting on its own.  Additionally, VOA relies heavily on volunteers who deliver meals to the homebound – and many of the volunteers who have helped us so much in the past are now participants in need of our services. The lack of funding and lack of volunteers have forced VOA to make some very difficult decisions.

  The Senior Meals program is funded by the Older Americans Act (OAA). Historically, the OAA has been underfunded when it comes to taking care of the actual needs of seniors. Medicare and Medicaid are not subject to cuts by Sequestration – the Older American’s Act is subject to reductions in funding, and this year VOA’s funding was cut by eight percent. Combined with losses from previous years, this has forced changes to the meals program.

  In order to keep the program operational, Senior CommUnity Meals is forced to make changes to the number of meals that we can serve – reducing them back to equal the actual funding VOA receives from the Older Americans Act. Senior CommUnity Meals must reduce our meals from 115,000 meals served down to 75,000 meals served. VOA’s primary focus is to serve the most vulnerable – those who cannot leave their homes. A program of frozen meal deliveries will be put in place to ensure those who cannot get out have something to eat. The frequency of delivery will depend on where the participant lives.

  Congregate meals services with a suggested donation of $3 for seniors over age 60 will continue at the sites in Cedaredge, Delta, Hotchkiss, Norwood, Nucla, Olathe and Paonia three days per week. Guests under age 60 will now be charged $8.40 per meal.

 The meal site in Montrose will now operate on a reservation-only basis, and all seniors over age 60 will be required to pay $5 per meal. A delicious meal will be provided by the Homestead at Montrose, and served at the Pavilion. Further information will be forthcoming via mail to all registered participants.

  VOA and Senior CommUnity Meals sincerely hope that this is a short-term solution to the situation, and all efforts are being made to ensure future funding and that services will be available for our senior citizens – our greatest generation – long into the future.