Cuts to federal spending on delivering meals to homebound seniors mean there is now a waiting list ...

Home Delivered Meals Takes Hit
Cuts to federal spending on delivering meals to homebound seniors mean there is now a waiting list for the Home Delivered Meals program offered through the C.A.N. D.O. Senior Center in Carthage.

Jo Brust, the meals coordinator at the center, said before the start of federal “Sequestration” in March, the staff could deliver to anyone that called the center. Now the limit is 55 in the Carthage area.

Home Delivered Meals is a federally-funded program that delivers meals five days a week to homebound seniors, and should not be confused with Meals on Wheels, a separate program operated by volunteers through Mercy McCune-Brooks Hospital.
“So far there are two people on the waiting list,” Brust said. “We can’t add any more people unless someone else is taken off the list for one reason or another.”

When the sequester budget cuts were installed in March, the Home Delivered Meals programs were affected the most in the Area Agency on Aging Region X. This region includes seven senior centers in Jasper, Barton, Newton and McDonald counties.

In response to these cuts, the agency will hold fundraisers to help offset the loss.
The first will be “Grapes & Grog,” held at 5 p.m. Aug. 10 at Elks Lodge in Joplin, 1802 W. 26th St. The fundraising event will have a silent auction, wine tasting and live music with Duke Mason. Tickets are $20, and may be purchased at the center in Carthage, 404 E. 3rd St.

Cuts Hit Schools
It may not seem like a lot, but a 5 percent cut in services to help some of the most vulnerable students in the Carthage R-9 school his something that will be felt throughout the district.

Deborah Swarens, assistant superintendent for instruction with the R-9 District, said Sequestration, the automatic cuts in federal spending that took affect in March, will take almost $108,000 from the district's budget of just over $2 million for federally-supported programs.

Swarens said that means fewer para-professionals, or instructional assistants, for classes that help students with disabilities as well as low-income, homeless, at-risk and students who are learning to speak English as a second language.

“If you talk to the principals in the kindergarten through sixth grade buildings, it's a big hit in areas where the most help is needed,” Swarens said. “These are the places where we need more feet on the ground to provide interventions and create smaller groups of children so we can better help them.”

Swarens said the district's budgets for federal Title 1-A programs, those that deal with at-risk students, students who are homeless, English language learners or low income, will lose $53,185 from a budget of $1,003,498.

The district's IDEA Part B programs, which help students with disabilities, will lose $39,030 from a $736,424 budget.

All told, sequestration will bring the district's federal funding down from $2,035,701 to $1,927,808, a cut of $107,892.

“The bottom line is we run a pretty tight budget and when the federal government allocates X amount to serve our kids, anything we get, we spend,” Swarens said. “When you make a 5 percent cut, it comes down to people.”

She said hours for some instructional assistants will be cut and some employees have not been rehired to absorb the cuts.

State Level
State Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, said sequestration is having an impact around Missouri's military bases, hurting contractors and other business people who rely on spending by the services and by service members.

“Around Fort Leonard Wood and Whitman Air Force Base, businesses and contractors have seen a lot of negative impacts,” Davis, who chairs the House Veterans Committee. “Businesses are hurting in those parts of the state.”

Davis said state lawmakers are watching the federal Base Re-Alignment and Closure process, or BRAC, closely and working try to limit any decisions by the federal government to reduce those bases.

“The next round of BRAC closures are coming up and there are rumors that Fort Leonard Wood may be downsized,” Davis said. “We've passed bills and worked really hard to make sure Missouri is as military-friendly as possible.”

Locally, Davis said he's hearing from veterans about problems getting medical and other services from federal authorities.

“When we look at the number of calls we're getting from vets not getting care, they're up,” Davis said. “We're not sure if that's because of sequestration or the administration scaling back on veterans services.”