Sequestration: A Cut for Montco's Seniors
Part Two of a Four-Part Series: How budget cuts may impact local senior citizens.
Another 24 hours is lost, and Congress has yet to agree on a plan that would stop sequestration. The automated budget cuts will deliver a hit to Montgomery County programs, including those designed to assist area senior citizens.
In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, House Speaker John Boehner said the cuts would be a product of Obama's "failed leadership."
"Most Americans are just hearing about this Washington creation for the first time: the sequester," Boehner writes in his column. "What they might not realize from Mr. Obama's statements is that it is a product of the president's own failed leadership. There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much -- we should be cutting even more -- but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it."
But how would these federal goverment budget reductions impact local citizens? Montgomery County's senior citizens might be hardest hit. There are more than 225,000 residents over age 55 in Montgomery County, making it the county with the highest median age in the southeastern region of the state.
According to a White House press release, "Pennsylvania would lose approximately $849,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors."
Joanne Kline, executive director of the Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services department said that such a cut would greatly impact her programs.
"Area agencies on aging are funded by these very important funding 'strings,' and we're all in the same boat," explained Kline. She said that all Greater Philadelphia's surrounding county departments, including those in Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties, would also be hurt.
"We are waiting to hear when funds are allocated to the state, what will come down to us," she said.
One of the most crucial programs Kline fears may be impacted is the home-delivered meals program.
"It is so crucial for those that are unable to make their own meals," she said. "It is a huge nutritional issue. It keeps these people well and healthy."
Kline said assistance with meals can often be one of the first "accepted" services a senior will allow when his or her health begins to change.
"It is our most important program, and growing continually," she said.
While the home-delivered meals programs are largely operated by volunteer efforts, Kline's department relies on federal funding for the purchasing of the food. In 2012, the department delivered 247,131 meals to home clients, and 74,000 "congregate meals" (or those served in a nursing facility).
"We get nutritional money handed down through the state from Harrisburg," she said. "We are also assisted with lottery funds that come down to us. It is all a part of an allocation from the Department of Aging."
Reduced funds, Kline noted, would likely cause a waiting list to grow, meaning fewer seniors would be provided with meals.
"In Montgomery County, we have a growing list for those in home care," said Kline. "We have 200 on a waiting list, and most of those just need a bath and some in-home care."
With more reductions to funding, Kline estimates 20 to 30 more would be added to that waiting list for home-delivered meals.
"If that is all they needed, it is very sad," she said. "One of our most effective programs, and it is run by volunteers. All we need is that money for meals, and it goes a long way to keep folks at home and independent."
Cuts in funding would go beyond the home-delivered meals program, too. Kline noted that other areas of concern are for the Family Caregivers Support Program and the Ombudsman Program.
"Federal money which comes down is important," said Kline. "It protects folks from elder abuse and neglect cases. It is one of our most critical programs."
As presure also comes from a change in the Pennsylvania Lottery system, with a Gov. Tom Corbett-created plan to privatize the system, Kline worries that both of her major sources of funding would be up in the air.
"We are absolutely in favor of any program to increase our fudning to allow for more services, at a time when our population is growing so dramatically," she said. "We simply ask 'Are there ways we can look at different kinds of service dollars to fund these growing needs?'"
For part one in the series, read this story.