Meals on Wheels and Senior Services Programs Face Budget Reductions in January!

The Budget Control Act of 2011 is the debt ceiling and deficit reduction legislation signed into law in the summer of 2011. This Act also created the “Super Committee” to produce a debt reduction plan with projected savings of more than $1 trillion dollars over 10 years.   When this committee failed to come to an agreement, a process known as “sequestration” was triggered to begin on January 2, 2013. (For more information on sequestration: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42050.pdf)

If Congress cannot agree on ways to reduce the total budget, or fails to pass a Budget Resolution, then an automatic form of spending cutbacks will occur. “Sequestration” is a process of automatic, largely across-the-board spending reductions under which budgetary resources are permanently canceled, with no departmental or agency control, to enforce certain budget policy goals.

Most exempt programs are mandatory, and include Social Security and Medicaid; refundable tax credits to individuals; and low-income programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and Supplemental Security Income.

Senior meal programs, as well as all other programs authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) are subject to the automatic spending cuts of sequestration. Current projections indicate a 7.8% – 8.4% cut in funding will occur in January of 2013.

What does this mean for older adults in Michigan, and across the U.S.?

If sequestration occurs, over $1 million dollars in home-delivered meal funds will be cut in Michigan alone. This funding translates into over 1.4 million meals for over 15,000 homebound Michigan seniors for one year. Across the country, over 17 million older adults will no longer receive home-delivered meals.

This reduction will exacerbate an already growing number of seniors who face food insecurity.  In 2010, over 14% of seniors in Michigan faced the threat of hunger. Nationally, the number of seniors facing this threat has increased significantly.

Food programs protected from sequestration include Child Nutrition Programs (School Lunch, School Breakfast), Child and Adult Care Food, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  But ,Senior Nutrition Programs are not protected.  Congregate and home-delivered meal programs deserve parity with these other federal nutrition programs also serving vulnerable populations (children, low-income individuals).

There are very real consequences to funding reductions for seniors and older adults: compromised health, poorer nutrition, increased isolation, and higher risk of falls and injury.  Reduced energy, muscle strength, functionality; reduced skin integrity; susceptibility to infection; and longer, more frequent hospitalizations are just some of the effects of under- and malnutrition. A 64 year-old suffering from hunger is likely to have the functional limitations of a 78 year-old.

The consequences will cause huge negative ripples throughout our public health and our social services infrastructure.

Support Meals on Wheels and help us end senior hunger!  Contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to work out a budget agreement without automatic spending cuts to Older Americans Act programs! To find your Representatives and Senators go to: http://house.gov or http://www.senate.gov.

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