Forty senior citizens in Chautauqua County will lose their home-delivered meals from Meals on Wheels starting April 1 if funding is not restored to the home-delivered meal program by the federal government by that time.
This reduction in federal funding - which is resulting from the federal government's recent budget sequestration order - will eliminate meal delivery to 40 of Chautauqua County's frailest seniors. The sequestration order eliminates more than 8 percent of federal funding to Meals on Wheels programs in Chautauqua County.
"The most important people to whom our federal funding is directed will be the first people eliminated from the home-delivered meal program," said Barrie Yochim, executive director for Meals on Wheels of the Jamestown Area, the county's largest provider of home-delivered meals. "These people are the people who need our service the most, but will be the first people to lose their meals."
Yochim said these senior citizens, who are unable to make any contribution toward the cost of their meals from Meals on Wheels, will be targeted first because others who even make a small money contribution for their meals will at least provide the meal system some revenue. The revenue helps keep the meal-delivery program working.
The loss of meals will be broken down countywide by:
22 meal recipients in the Jamestown service area;
10 meal recipients served by Sinclairville 76ers; and
Eight meal recipients in the Dunkirk-Fredonia Meals on Wheels service area.
Yochim also said there may have to be a "waiting list" for services begun, in order to allow the meal programs to plan for how future federal funding will be allocated for meals and meal recipients. This will delay the start of essential home-delivered meals to anyone who needs them - including those seniors who may be just coming home from a hospital or nursing home and who need the proper nutrition to get healthy again.
"We're talking about probably telling a senior citizen in Chautauqua County that they must wait for a month before they can even receive meal service," he said. "Up until this point, we have been able to start some senior citizens on home-delivered meals the next delivery day."
Some news reports nationally have stated the federal budget cuts as part of the budget sequestration will have little to no impact on services. Yochim said that eliminating some home meal delivery in Chautauqua County is proof that people making those statements are wrong.
Dr. Mary Ann Spanos, director of the Chautauqua County Office For the Aging, said, "We are very lucky that sequestration is not having a more devastating effect on our home delivered meals programs, and that is due to the great partnership we have with our local Meals on Wheels programs. Others counties across New York state have had waiting lists for meals for several years. The fundraising efforts of Jamestown Meals on Wheels program and our other meal delivery partners have helped us continue to serve everyone despite flat funding for meal programs for the last five years. Unfortunately, this sequestration is the final straw in funding that has been inadequate for several years given our growing senior population."
Jamestown Meals on Wheels delivers meals to senior citizens in the southern, western and central parts of Chautauqua County.
Sinclairville 76ers provides home-delivered meals to participants in the towns of Charlotte, Cherry Creek, Gerry and Ellington, and in Cassadaga, Stockton and Lily Dale. Dunkirk-Fredonia Meals on Wheels provides home-delivered meals to participants along the Lake Erie lakeshore from Brocton to Silver Creek, including the towns of Hanover and Villenova, and in Forestville.
"We've been told by our county's Office For the Aging that we have already been cut as of March 1," Yochim said. "We're already into March - the earliest we can make any budget adjustments is for April 1. These cuts are affecting actual senior citizens in our county, not just names or numbers on a list in Washington D.C. or Albany. These are our actual senior citizens."