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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Funding Restored For Meals Program

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Monett Senior Citizens Center and other senior centers in the southwest Missouri area will benefit from stimulus funding that has been received by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The department is slated to receive $1.92 million in federal funds for senior nutrition programs over the next two years.

Back in March, Monett area senior citizens signed 200 paper plates in protest of proposed cuts to the meals program. The plates were sent to Rep. David Sater along with a letter explaining the Monett Senior Center's concern over the issue.

"Do we need to have seniors make the crucial decision to either pay for their medicines or pay for their food, or to pay their rent and not have the food they need for good nutrition? Please don't let them go hungry," the letter read.

According to Margaret Donnelly, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services director. the recent funding announcement is among the first stimulus package programs to "reach the people by providing real services and help to those who need it."

"And the program certainly is among the most important," Donnelly said.

Although the funds will benefit the nutrition programs offered at local senior centers over the next two years, additional funding will be needed to sustain the programs in 2011, said Dorothy Knowles, Southwest Missouri Office on Aging chief executive officer.

"This year, the general assembly cut our core budget by $1.4 million," said Knowles. "We will receive the stimulus funds over a 15-month period, which means we will get one-fifth of the funds now and four-fifths of the funds will be distributed between July 1 and June 20, 2010.

"The stimulus funds will give us a slight gain, however the problem will come next July," said Knowles. "Since our core budget was cut, there won't be anything to replace the funds unless the general assembly acts to replace the regular funding."

In 2009, the senior nutrition program received around $1.9 million. After the $1.4 million funding cut, the program will receive $450,000 in general revenue next year, said Rep. David Sater, who serves as appropriations chair for the Mental Health and Senior Services Committee.

"We knew we would be getting the federal stimulus money, and with that money, the meals program will actually get an increase of $550,000 over last year," said Sater. "Now what do we do next year? That has been my whole concern since day one. When you have all of these ongoing programs and you don't have money to fund them what do you do?"

According to Sater, Missouri legislators have predicted a 4 percent decrease in general revenues next year, which could make it more difficult to fully fund many programs.

"I hope it turns around," said Sater. "I can start to see the sunlight now, but every year we have inflation and more people using these services with the baby boomers getting older. People are also living longer.

"It is a difficult situation," said Sater. "For this year, the program will receive more than last year due to the federal stimulus money. We will just have to wait and see what the budget is next year. Maybe the economy will be better."

The Southwest Missouri Office on Aging plans to hold several meetings with legislators this fall to promote the nutrition program.

"We want to see if legislators plan to propose the reinstatement of the funds," said Knowles. "If they don't, we will have to try to muster up enough advocacy to get the reinstatement passed."

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