Funding cut could take food from elderly programs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2000

A $1.5 to 2 million state funding cut could take food from the plates of the elderly, including more than 125 Adams County residents.

Sabrena Bartley, Natchez Senior Multi Purpose Center executive director, said she is unsure how the recent budget slash will affect the senior center’s services, including the home-delivered meals program.

&uot;We have heard about the cuts, and we are hoping we will not be affected,&uot; Bartley said. &uot;All of it hinges on what the southwest planning commission is going to do.&uot;

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The Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District, which also serves as the Area Agency of Aging, distributes state funding for programs in 10 counties in the southwest portion of the state.

Wirt Peterson, planning district executive director, said his office will lose $145,000 as a result of the cuts, more than 25 percent of their total budget.

&uot;&uot;There have been cuts at the state level, but we have not decided yet as to how it will filter down,&uot; Peterson said.

Every week day, more than 125 Adams County residents receive a hot meal through the program, for a total of more than 3,000 individuals served in June.

The senior center receives a majority of its funding from the planning district, with matching funds from local government, Bartley said.

&uot;We are totally and completely dependent on them,&uot; Bartley said. &uot;We would not be able to operate without the funds from the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District.&uot;

Former senior center director Barbara Byrne estimated the home-delivered meals program requires one-fifth of the total amount received from the planning district. Byrne also said the meal program is the senior center’s largest programs, second only to adult day care.

Bartley described the planning district as the &uot;liaison&uot; between the state and local aging programs.

The state Division of Aging and Adult Services oversees all funds allocated by the federal government for projects dealing with senior citizens. The state agency then distributes the funds to the planning districts, which in turn, allocate the money to local agencies like the Natchez senior center.

Peterson said he recently wrote a letter to the state agency asking why the cuts were necessary, and he is waiting for a reply.

Other than the 125 to 140 frail and elderly residents who receive meals from the program, at least 85 more are currently on a waiting list, Bartley said.

&uot;Any cut in funding to these or any of our programs would be detrimental to those persons needing the service,&uot; Bartley said.

&uot;The main focus of the center is to continue to address the needs of the aging and frail population of Natchez-Adams County, and my staff and I are committed to exploring all options to address those needs.&uot;