Sequester hitting programs for seniors

6:12 PM, Mar 26, 2013   |    comments
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TOPSHAM, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's been almost a month since the federal spending cuts known as sequestration went into effect. And those who work with Maine senior citizens said they are hitting hard.

The sequester cuts 5% of funds for the Older Americans Act, a federal bill that was first passed in 1965.  The act covers nutrition programs, family caregiver supports, outreach to help seniors choose a Medicare plan or heating assistance, and health and wellness programs.  The programs are delivered through local service providers, like area agencies on aging.

Spectrum Generations, which covers 6 counties in the Midcoast area, gets 50-60% of its funds through the Older Americans Act. The sequester has led to a cut of $106,000 dollars for the fiscal year ending in September.

Spectrum has cut back on its counseling services, its health and wellness trainings, Meals on Wheels, and its community dining program, among other services.

Granville and Yvonne Arris of Brunswick are among those who were coming to Spectrum Generations in Topsham for lunch twice a week. They said the meals are good tasting and provide a nice opportunity to socialize for them. Granville Arris said Congress should realize the impact these cuts have on seniors. "My message to Congress? Stop wasting money and put it where it belongs. You shouldn't cut this program or any of the senior programs," he said. "They need it."

Arris's daughter, Linda Arris, said the meals gave her comfort that her parents were eating something other than cereal at least twice a week. "They don't eat the food I prepare for them," she said. "They feel like they're taking it away from me. And they don't want to do that."

Spectrum Generations President and CEO Gerard Queally said Maine's congressional delegation has been extremely supportive of the Older Americans Act, and he feels they are working to eliminate these cuts. He said he's hoping that the more people hear about how the cuts affect seniors, the more pressure will come to other members of Congress to get together and end these cuts.  He said the Older Americans Act actually saves taxpayer dollars by helping seniors live healthier, more independent lives that keep them out of the hospital.

"Yes, get rid of the things that aren't working in government," Queally said. "But the Older Americans Act is working in government."


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