We would like to let you know that the Senior Center started receiving less funding from the Office of Aging as of July 1, 2016. New rules for home bound meal delivery have also been applied to our Region. We are trying to get the word out that we need more federal funding and community support. The problem is that we are serving more individuals with less funding per person. I have tried to summarize (below) what is in the attached slide show. We are trying to reach out to as many government officials as possible so you can help notify our federal senators and representatives to let them know that we need the Older American Act to pass in the fall. We also need more funds to be allocated to keep up with the demand for services. Please pay attention to slide 7 – this shows the real problem. Every Senior Center is struggling to keep up with the demand for services with less funding. The Times New is preparing a feature article in September 18th paper regarding senior hunger and the need for help with all area senior centers. I hope you find this information informative. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thank you for your support.
The funding crisis is due to fact that there are more individuals over the age of 60 than any other time in this country’s history. The passage of the Older American Act has not been revised since 2006. In 2011 the provisions expired and funding continued under sequestration rules. The reduction of funds to serve these Seniors has caused a huge financial strain on all Senior Centers when the Centers are providing services to the largest number of Seniors in history. The Twin Falls Senior Center serves a large population in Twin Falls. It is estimated that 38% of the population in Twin Falls by 2020 will be over the age of 60. The Center has worked hard in the last five years to serve the community one heart at a time. Now we are being told that we are doing too good of a job serving our area. We had a 15% increase in the demand for services in 2015. The funding is not keeping up with the demand for services.
The Center has to comply with the Older American’s Act – serving any one over the age of 60 whether they have the ability to pay or not. We can only ask for suggested donations not required payment for services. This is where the Office on Aging’s funding came into play. The funds would provide the Centers with a small reimbursement per person. Beginning July 1, 2016 we received a 33 cent decrease per meal for home bound meals and 56 cent decrease per meal for those we serve in the Center. This decrease is huge. We are now expected to serve more people with fewer funds per person. Somehow we still have to cover our food costs, preparation costs, and packaging.In addition to the reduction in funding we have been told that we need to eliminate approximately 8% of our current home bound meal clients. Home bound meal clients are those who are the most in danger of food insecurity. (See information below.) So if you are not below poverty or living alone we cannot feed you until the age of 75. Fifteen year is a long time to be hungry. We believe this is direct violation of the Older American Act – We have asked the Attorney General’s office to look to see if this policy is equitable. These new rules were not applicable state-wide.
JULY 1, 2016 NEW ELIGIBILITY RULES FOR HOME DELIVERED – REVOKED SEPTEMBER 15, 2016
- Must be homebound
- Must be unable to fix meals
- Must meet one of the following criteria: NEW
- Must be under 100% of Poverty ($990 single or $1,335 for a couple)
- Must be living alone
- Must be over the age of 75 – Not Age 60
If an individual is considered 135% of poverty they qualify for a 40 lb. food box provided by the Idaho Foodbank Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) once a month, however the Center cannot feed them unless they are 100% of poverty. What we are seeing is a huge need to feed those individuals who can afford to pay the full cost of their meals and don’t qualify as 100% of poverty.
On September 15, 2016 I received a phone call from Office on Aging staff stating that they were removing the restrictions listed above (beginning July 1, 2016) for individuals who needed Meals on Wheels. I was told that there were still too many people needing services even with the rule changes. The eligibility rules effective September 15, 2016 were the guidelines the Centers had followed for years and became familiar with. Hooray!! GOOD NEWS.
WHO QUALIFIES? – EFFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 15, 2016
- 60 years or older and their spouses, regardless of spouses age
- Disabled person living in the home of person 60 years or older
- Due to frailty the person is unable to participate in the Congregate Meal program or prepare a meal at home
- Additional requirements that prioritize At Risk factors may be implemented at the discretion of the Area Agency on Aging Director
NOW the BAD NEWS – There is not enough federal or state funding to allow any more participants to receive meals at the current time. All interested participants will be placed on waiting lists until funding becomes available (As of December 1, no person has been removed from the Office on Aging waiting list and given approval to receive meals from the Twin Falls Senior Center). Can people wait to eat? I don’t think so. The participants who need the services the most are not being allowed to eat. We are talking about individuals who are not receiving the proper daily nutrition, frail, and have major medical problems.
As the Director of the Twin Falls Senior Center I will not allow these individuals to go hungry. The daily requests I receive for meals is compelling and heartfelt while being explained with a sense of urgency and extreme anxiety for proper nutrition. Two hours after receiving the new rules and the waitlist notification I received a phone call from a local health care provider concerned about a patient. The patient was 87 years of age, frail and only weighing 80 lbs. She was needing proper daily nutrition along with her 90-year-old husband. They didn’t have the funds to privately pay $5.50 for their meals. How do you tell them they have to wait to eat? I won’t!
In order for the Center to feed those who need to have the services the Center will need to find different avenues of funding. This job has not been easy during my tenure; however, it has just now become a whole lot more complicated. The Center has been very successful with grant applications in the past, along with good fiscal management. We just need a little help from others to help serve the Senior members of our community. As the Director of the Center I am actively informing community members that we need their support. Securing additional funds is a must. I continue to look outside the box for different funding sources – churches, civic organizations, private foundations, business owners, and individual citizens of our community. This is a local program as well as a national problem that needs to be addressed.
The individuals receiving these services from the Senior Center have served their country while in the military, paid their taxes, created businesses or worked for businesses in our community along with raising the next generation of family members to contribute to the overall welfare of our community, state, and nation.
We have started a campaign to get our federal and state officials to understand the crisis that will be unfolding over the next 35 years. The U.S. Senate finally passed the Older American’s Reauthorization Act five years overdue on April 7, 2016. The President signed the bill into law on April 19, 2016. While obligating funds for the nutritional programs more funding is needed to better reflect the demand of more than 12 million Seniors needing services. We can feed a person for a year for less than one day in the hospital or one week in a nursing facility. For every dollar spent on our program would save $50 in Medicaid spending. If we help Seniors get the proper nutrition now they will be happier, healthier, and remain independent in their own homes. Everyone wins.
If you have any comments, concerns, questions or donations, please feel free to contact me. I will continue to update this information as changes take place in the coming months.
Twin Falls Senior Center
Written originally in Aug 2016 – Revised in Dec 2016