JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida is expected to take the second biggest hit in the nation when it comes to cuts to the Older Americans Act Program if sequestration happens. The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations says it would be nearly $5 million in cuts.
When it comes to helping seniors in need on the First Coast, resources are already stretched thin and things could get a lot worse if the looming budget cuts become a reality.
According to a White House report on the impact of sequestration, Florida would lose about $3.8 million in funds used to provide nutritious meals for seniors.
"It's devastating. It is truly devastating," said Teresa Barton.
Barton, the CEO of Aging True Community Senior Services, oversees the Meals on Wheels program. She said right now, more than 600 Duval County seniors who qualify for meals are on the waiting list. If the cuts happen, she expects the wait list will not only grow longer, but hundreds of current recipients could be terminated.
"Unfortunately for some seniors, it will mean they will lose their independence either because they have to move in with a relative, if they have a relative to move in which many do not, or they will find themselves institutionalized in an nursing home or assisted living facility," said Barton.
It's not just seniors who receive food through Meals on Wheels who could be impacted. Linda Levin, Executive Director of ElderSource, which disperses federal and state money to providers of senior services, said the cuts would be far reaching.
"In-home services that help someone be able to live at home independently, services to support caregivers, transportation to dining sites and medical appointments even to employment programs that are federally funded for seniors who are low income."
As for Kathleen Holt, she knows the hot meals she's been getting for the past five years might not continue.
"I hate it because they are going to do that but there is nothing you can do about it, just hope they don't do that, but if they do, we will have to find a way to get by," said Holt.
As for when services could be reduced, Barton thinks it will be 30 to 60 days after sequestration before the full impact of the cuts are known, and it could be another 30 days before they take effect.
First for you, if you know a senior in need, you can call the ElderSource hotline at 1-888-242-4464 to be connected to resources near you or visit www.myeldersource.org.
First Coast News