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The sky isn't falling: Brow planned for sequester so seniors won't lose meals -- at least this year

U.S. Rep.

Frederica Wilson

, D-Miami, held a sequester-bashing presser Thursday at the North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines to protest the feds yanking dollars for air traffic controllers at small airports nationwide. She also mentioned that other programs will take a hit including Meals on Wheels.


But the sequester’s impact on Meals on Wheels can vary from county to county depending on how the program is managed. In Broward at least for 2013, it won’t mean anyone will lose a meal, said Mark Adler, director for Broward Meals on Wheels.

“We are very fortunate,” Adler said. “We anticipated this and we made cuts to avoid having to reduce the number of meals.”

Adler anticipates a cut of about $300,000 as of July 1 which represents an 8 percent cut for congregate dining and 5 percent cut for homebound seniors. About two-thirds of the $5.2 million annual budget is federally funded with local communities helping make up the difference.

The program serves more than 10,000 people a year -- congregate clients get five meals per week while clients who get meals at home get 10 meals per week. (To serve more clients, the program found in recent years it had to cut back from 14 meals a week to 10.)

Broward Meals on Wheels left staff positions unfilled and asked for clients who could afford to make contributions, Adler said. That means the program won’t have to reduce the number of meals or clients this year.

“Now going forward that’s going to be a challenge,” Adler said.

The publicity about Meals on Wheels programs slashing meals has created anxiety.

“Our clients really started freaking out when they heard that it was on CNN,” Adler said. “We got calls immediately -- am I going to lose my meals?”

Though Broward seniors will get their meals this year, Adler expressed concern about future funding which he says has remained flat-lined for years and will now decrease.

“It’s kind of like waiting for a trainwreck -- you see demand is going to be increasing and dollars are decreasing. ... Sixteen thousand people turn 60 years old each day in this country. Broward County has one of the highest concentrations of people turning 60.”

Mike Elwell, Broward’s human services director, said he didn’t know if the county will backfill the anticipated lost federal dollars for Meals on Wheels. (That seems unlikely since the program has a plan for this year.) Earlier this week in response to sequester cuts at the North Perry airport, the county agreed to provide about $43,000 a month to keep the tower staffed 10 hours a day, down from the current 14.