"We simply can't afford to keep all these programs operational" - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

"We simply can't afford to keep all these programs operational"

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YAKIMA, Wash.--Sequestration drastically reduced funding in the Older Americans Act, taking money out of services like "Meals on Wheels" and senior transportation. Until now, these programs have been dipping into their savings to stay afloat.
But you can't run on reserves forever. That's why the Lori Brown, the Director of Southeast Washington Aging and Long-Term care worries about the near future if more federal budget cuts pass in the next year.
"Well your fund balances end up, you know shrinking," said Brown. "You can't do that. It's not sustainable, and so now Meals on Wheels programs are really going to be hit."
Brown said they've been relying on savings to keep core programs, like Meals On Wheels running. But even with this effort, communal meal sites have already been eliminated across the region like the one in Mabton. Also, some seniors are already noticing less frequent home visits and a very different type of meal.
"Instead of somebody going to a homebound person and checking on them and giving them a hot meal, they'll do frozen meals for certain period of time," said Brown.
Services like adult day care, bathing, foot care and transportation have also taken a large hit. $83,000 this year and that could more then double in 2014. Brown said services like bathing would be the first to go.
"We simply can't afford to keep all these programs operational so we're going to be eliminating that service," said Brown.
The director said this doesn't just affect seniors who rely on these services, it also affects taxpayers who will have to foot the bill for more expensive cases like acute care.
Brown said Congress has the ability to prioritize services in the budget for 2014. Her hope is that the core programs under the Older Americans Act will be protected before senior services takes another dramatic hit.