Federal spending cuts to hamper Frederick County senior-citizen programs -- Gazette.Net






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The Frederick County Department of Aging will be forced to cut back some of its programs and services for senior citizens, due to the failure of President Barack Obama and Congress to stop federal spending cuts that went into effect on March 1.

Carolyn True, director of the aging department, was told in a conference call with state officials on Friday that the grants the county receives as part of the Older Americans Act — federal legislation enacted in 1965 that provides programs to senior citizens — will be cut somewhere between 4.5 percent and 8.4 percent, or roughly $363,000.

“We’re going to have to reduce funding in certain areas,” True said. “I’m hoping to figure out a way to make this as painless as possible, but there will be cuts.”

True said she will have another call with state officials later this week to learn the exact amount of the cuts and the direct impact to each program.

The cuts will be made to six programs run by True’s department, including the meals served to homebound seniors and the five senior centers; transport service for seniors to the centers; senior-center social activities; health services; and disease-prevention programs.

The cuts will start next month, True said.

Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said he is aware of the impending cuts, and the county will do what it can to make up the difference.

“I’m working with [the department of aging], and I’m assisting them,” he said.

Young said if they can sell the county-owned nursing home and assisted living facility, the savings can be put toward the programs cut at the agency.

“The money can go to a broad range of services,” he said.

The Frederick Board of County Commissioners is evaluating three bids from companies interested in buying or leasing Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and the Montevue Assisted Living facility.

In the current fiscal 2013, the county is slated to spend $1.7 million to operate Citizens and another $2.5 million to run Montevue, for a total of $4.2 million.

Commissioners want to turn over ownership of the facilities to a private company to stop paying the annual subsidy to operate the two homes.

Of the $85 billion in sequestration cuts to domestic and defense spending nationwide, Maryland will lose $877,000 in funds that provide meals for homebound seniors, according to a report released by the White House last month.

The total cost of the county Meals on Wheels program in fiscal 2013, which ends June 30, is $198,256, $120,000 of which goes to food.

The program’s funding comes in part from federal and state grants of $49,803 in fiscal 2013, and the county government, which provides $118,453.

The average cost of the meals is $50 per week per senior.

The number of people getting meals has remained at 125 for several years, but the $50-per-week contribution from seniors receiving meals has not, because more seniors are struggling to pay, agency officials have said.

The program runs Monday through Friday, when a hot meal is delivered at midday, along with a cold meal that can be refrigerated and eaten later.

Participants must be homebound due to illness or physical limitations, have no caregiver to assist with shopping and be unable to safely prepare food.

They are asked to give a $50-per-week contribution if they are financially able.

In fiscal 2013, the aging department received $95,307 to provide lunch at the five senior centers, True said. Of that, $27,000 was collected from the seniors.

“People contribute what they can,” True said.