The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Senior Outlook

July 6, 2011

Carolyn Mclaren, columnist: Budget cuts still an issue for AAA

JOPLIN, Mo. — Every once in awhile when I am in my car going to or from a meeting, I turn on the radio and while scanning the stations sometimes I catch a program by a man named Dave Ramsey.

Ramsey gives advice on how to balance your personal budget and get out of debt. And in my humble opinion, he makes pretty good sense. He talks about knowing how much is coming in and how much is going out, being prudent in spending, working on being debt free and having an emergency fund for those unexpected surprises.

A few months ago in my column I wrote about two things that were happening in the State Legislature. One was the fate of the Missouri Rx program, a drug program that many Missouri seniors rely on to pay half of their prescription drug co-pays; the other was the budget for our home-delivered meal program.

The loss of the MORx program would have put many of our seniors in the position of having to choose between purchasing medications, food or paying their utility bills.  Thankfully the Legislature reauthorized the program through 2016 and funded it in the 2012 budget. When the budget went to the governor’s office for approval and his signature, Missouri Rx was funded for 2012. Hurrah!

The second funding concern was the Agency’s Home Delivered Meal Program. In 2010 the State Legislature removed 1.4 million dollars from the budget for the ten Area Agencies in Missouri. This was done because the Agencies were going to receive 1.4 million in federal stimulus money. The legislature decided to use the stimulus funds to replace funding from the State budget.

The plan was to put the money back in the 2011 budget. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. The loss of this funding made it very difficult to meet the need for meals for our homebound seniors. When the Legislature completed the 2012 budget they restored approximately $942,000 to the Home Delivered Meal Program, although it was not the full $1.4 million the ten Area Agencies on Aging were thankful.

However, when this part of the budget arrived on the Governor’s desk, sadly, he decided to withhold the funds. This means once again the homebound program across Missouri will not have funding for approximately 172,844 meals. For our Agency’s four counties it is a loss of $34,000, which is equal to approximately 6250 meals.  With this unexpected change, our agency and the other Area Agencies across the state will strive hard to meet the needs of our homebound seniors.

Creating the state budget is a very difficult task, especially in these economic times. If you have an opportunity to speak with our legislators, please thank them for their support of the MO Rx program and the Area Agencies on Aging, but remind them that we need them to continue trying to restore the funding to our home delivered meal program.

Carolyn McLaren is the executive director of the Area Agency on Aging, Region 10.

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