Meals on Wheels faces funding cut

As stimulus funds expire, Georgia senior citizens confront an array of proposed state budget cuts on social services.

The reductions in the fiscal 2012 budget include $1 million in state funding for about 138,000 Meals on Wheels a year. That would reflect a fraction of those food deliveries in Georgia, but the cut could still affect hundreds of people, consumer advocates say.

Meals on Wheels delivers more than 1 million meals a day nationally to seniors whose mobility is limited. The meals can help them maintain their independence.

Thousands of elderly Georgians struggle to remain in their homes and not be forced into nursing homes, says 2020 Georgia, a coalition of organizations that includes AARP, the Georgia Public Health Association, and Voices for Georgia’s Children. The coalition supports solutions to Georgia’s budget problems that include new revenues.

The demand for meals is growing, AARP Georgia says. More than 5,000 elderly Georgians sit on waiting lists for home-delivered meals or those provided in settings such as senior centers, says Kathy Floyd, AARP Georgia’s associate director for advocacy.

“Legislators understand the importance and popularity of Meals on Wheels,’’ Floyd adds.

Economic stimulus money propped up the Meals program this year, but with those funds gone, the budget has not injected state funds to fill the gap.

The fiscal 2011 and 2012 budgets ‘’take aging services down to the minimum level to draw down federal funding,’’ says Clare Richie, senior policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

Also targeted for reductions is $1.6 million for respite programs to help caregivers of seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s a story by Walter Jones of Morris News Service about the social service cuts.