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Local agencies like Meal on Wheels provider closely watching debt ceiling talks

 For over 50 years, Elder Care Services has been serving seniors in the Big Bend.
Adrian Andrews
/
WFSU
For over 50 years, Elder Care Services has been serving seniors in the Big Bend.

In Leon County, Elder Care’s executive director worries if Congress' discussions impact funding, it could have a negative effect on seniors' well-being and pockets.

As the federal government’s looming debt ceiling raises concerns about federal cash flow, some local agencies like Elder Care Services in Tallahassee are worried as well.

The agency is celebrating over 50 years of delivering food to seniors in Florida's Big Bend region through its Meals on Wheels program.

This week, dozens of community and government leaders volunteered to cover the routes.

“We’re got 10 meals that we will deliver today and as they were mentioning in the briefing, sometimes we’ll be the only person that a lot of these folks will see," said Keith Bowers, director of the Office of Economic Vitality, a government-funded business development agency in Leon County.

"It gives us an opportunity to share some love with them and just be smiling friendly faces and let them know we care.”

Elder Care provides assistance to 2,000 seniors a year, and out of those, 400 are Meals on Wheels recipients. Which means a lot of dollars are needed.

Currently, the Older Americans Act of 1965 covers costly expenses including nutritious meals, daily visits and safety checks.

Elder Care’s executive director, Jocelyn Fliger, worries if Congress' debt ceiling discussions impact their funding, it could have a negative effect on seniors' well-being and their families’ pockets, too.

“I would hope people would see the heart impact of these programs but also these programs make fiscal sense as well," said Figer.

"If we’re able to check in on seniors and provide them nutrition each day, often times that would mitigate a more costly ER visit or nursing home placement. So, besides having that feel good component, it is also a very fiscally responsible program.”

According to the Meals on Wheels national office, 5,000 local agencies currently receive a 35% share from the federal government. The rest comes from state or local entities, private donations or through grants.

Adrian Andrews