Ocean County Press Release
Concerns Voiced Over Impact on Senior Nutrition Program
TOMS RIVER – With its growing senior population and the need to provide services to the frail and elderly, Ocean County officials are calling upon federal representatives to end the ongoing threat of sequestration.
"In Ocean County, our nutrition program provides a warm meal to almost 1,000 people a day," said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as chairman of the Office of Senior Services. "The forecasted 10 percent cut in services as a result of the federal sequester will result in a steep reduction of support services to the county's senior population.
"In addition to the impact on senior nutritional programs, the federal budget sequestration would have an effect on transportation, home care, caregiver services, fixit programs, benefits assistance, and adult protective services," Vicari said. "Each of these areas provides benefits to our aging population many of whom are frail and vulnerable and rely on these life sustaining programs."
Vicari said severe cuts in funding for these programs would be counter productive to the ongoing call to keep the elderly in their homes and therefore independent.
"When you start to chip away at the lifelines, like home delivered meals, provided to the elderly you begin to diminish their potential to remain in their homes and independent," Vicari said.
In 2013, Ocean County, through its contractor Community Services, Inc. plans to provide over 60,000 congregate meals and over 185,000 home delivered meals to seniors.
"We would need to cut 26,000 meals in Ocean County and we already have a waiting list of almost 200 people for this program," Vicari said. "It is time for Washington to act responsibly and stop threatening the program that means the most to our citizens."
Vicari authored a letter earlier this week to President Obama outlining his concerns as they specifically relate to senior services.
"I know this sequester has a far reaching effect should it happen, bringing across the board cuts to numerous programs," Vicari said. "However, with the largest senior population in the state and with the greatest increase in citizens 85-years-old and older, it is imperative that we raise our voices in Ocean County in opposition to these proposed severe cuts to make certain our oldest citizens are not harmed by this."
Vicari noted that for the cost of a day in the emergency room for a senior citizen, the county can feed that same senior for the entire year through the county's nutrition program.
"These programs are the safety nets our citizens rely on," Vicari said. "Keeping this program running is vital to maintain the quality of life for the seniors that call Ocean County home."