Senior meal deliveries skyrocketing, funding not

Senior meal deliveries skyrocketing, funding is not
By Dave Taylor

When COVID-19 shut down senior citizens centers, the state told counties to provide meals to any senior who needed it, which has led to large numbers that someone will eventually have to pay for, according to senior services director Lona Morton.

Morton told the fiscal court Monday that the number of home delivered meals has more than doubled in recent months, and the meals served to those who can come pick them up has increased 50 percent too, and without additional funding in the future the county could end up footing the bill.
“For an average year for congregate, we would serve 6,028 meals. That’s what I’m contracted to do. That’s 502 a month,” she said. “Well with what we’re running now that’s about 257 over.”
That’s $2,565 above the normal monthly costs, but the meals delivered to people unable to get out and pick up food has increased more than that.

“For home delivered, we’re running about 642 over what we would normally serve,” she said. In July they delivered more than 1,100 meals. That’s an extra cost of $4,230 a month.
Funding for the programs comes through donations from those getting the meals, as well as through GRADD, the county fiscal court, and state and federal governments, but the increases in expenses aren’t being met with increases in funding.
If things continue as they are her programs will run out of money for congregate meals in eight months and home delivered meals in about five and a half months.

“That’s kind of my fear going forward is that come the end of this fiscal year they’re going to say OK, you all have to cut back on the meals, which we’re not sure how we’re going to do that,” she said.
Despite the warning of potential upcoming expenses, Morton said she has faith that the state government will come up with funding for the program.

The increased numbers aren’t arbitrary, but they represent needs that had been going unmet.
“The ones that we are home delivering to, I just didn’t realize that there were that many out there that we weren’t reaching,” she said. “It’s just kind of blowing my mind that there are that many.”
And although the government looks at the costs, Morton said she sees the real effects of the programs.
“I know we look at numbers and stuff, but I see the faces,” she said. “I see the people, so to me there is a genuine need for these people to stay on.”
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