Gov. Nixon releases funds for senior centers

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Earlier this month, Gov. Jay Nixon released funds that will benefit local senior centers' meals programs, but Missouri's 10 Area Agencies on Aging continue to face possible funding shortfalls this year.

On Aug. 3, Nixon released $1.2 million that will benefit domestic violence shelters and crisis care services for children and provide Area Agencies on Aging with $471,000. The Southwest Missouri Office on Aging (SMOA) will receive around $54,000, which will benefit meals programs at many of the local senior centers.

"We just ended our fiscal year 2011," said Dorothy Knowles, SMOA chief executive officer. "At the end of the year, Area Agencies on Aging had seen a $1.4 million cut in funding across the state. For us that amounts to $196,000, which we haven't gotten back."

When legislators approved the budget for fiscal year 2012, they reinstated $968,000, which was around two-thirds of the funding that was cut last year.

"When the governor signed the budget, he withheld that funding," said Knowles. "I think it was because he was facing the state's expenses for the tornado in Joplin and Missouri's share of the clean-up from the floods in the northern part of the state.

"As revenues have stayed above projections, he released half of that money," said Knowles. "For us, that means that we will get about $54,000 back."

Although the funding will help local senior centers continue to conduct their meals programs, the Area Agencies on Aging and SMOA are bracing for an even larger funding cut.

"We receive the bulk of our funding through the Older American Act, which is a federal program," said Knowles. "We haven't seen the numbers yet, but the piece of legislation passed for the debt ceiling will impact all discretionary funds.

"We are very concerned about what could happen to the foundation of our funding," said Knowles. "That funding has remained very stable in the past, and this October, we could have a reduction, but right now we don't know what to anticipate."

Around two years ago, the Area Agencies on Aging saw their first major cut in state funding, which sent the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging scrambling to reduce costs.

"The senior centers held fundraisers, and we had some furloughs," said Knowles. "We got our act together, and last year, even though we lost even more funding, we ended the year with our finances in good standing without any layoffs of employees or cuts to programs.

"If we lose the federal funding, we will have to make cuts though," said Knowles. "Whether that is in programs or staff, I don't know. That will be a board decision."

For now, SMOA is thankful to receive the funding that was released by Nixon this month. The monies will help area senior centers absorb costs associated with rising food prices, said Knowles.

"Everything is going to continue to rise," said Knowles. "The senior centers have done a fantastic job of generating revenue and cutting costs. I wish we could have gotten all of the money that was withheld, but we are thankful for what we did get."

This Saturday, the Cassville Senior Center will host a fashion show, jewelry sale and ladies luncheon from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets, which include the noon meal, are $5. Proceeds from the event will benefit the local center's meals program.

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