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February 27, 2013

Federal cuts would be another hit to Valley agencies

TERRE HAUTE — Already hit with a 10-percent decrease in funds from a possible series of automatic federal cuts as part of the sequester, the Area 7 Agency on Aging & Disabled could see a second hit in March.

Indiana’s Division of Aging withheld $200,000 — 10 percent — in federal funding from the Terre Haute agency because of a possible sequester on Jan. 1, said Gloria Wetnight, assistant program director of Area 7 Agency on Aging.

“If it didn’t take place, we were told we should get our funding back. We didn’t get our funding back, and now the sequester has been moved to March 1,” Wetnight said.

Automatic cuts of $85 billion will be triggered Friday and take place between then and the end of September in the sequestration of federal funds. The deadline was originally Jan. 1, but a last-minute bargain by Congress in December pushed that deadline back to Friday.

Area 7 Agency could again see another reduction of funds by July 1 if automatic cuts occur, Wetnight said. The state, which distributes federal funds, has a fiscal year that runs from June to July.

“We are not sure what that will be; we are just being told to plan on having less,” Wetnight said, adding some federal estimates are a 9-percent reduction.

The 10 percent in funding withheld at the start of the year means Area 7 Agency now has 102 seniors on a waiting list for home-delivered meals. Area 7 Agency delivers meals to homes in Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.

“We had to reduce the number of people we are serving this year. We usually provide a little over 600 meals a day and now we are serving a little over 500 meals a day,” Wetnight said.

“That could be reduced again. We were shocked because if it will be a 9-percent cut. We have already taken a 10-percent cut that we had hoped to receive … back,” Wetnight said.

She said Area 7 has asked the United Way of the Wabash Valley to fund its nutrition program in all six counties this year. The United Way has previously provided about $4,500 just for Clay County.

In addition, Wetnight said she is seeking funds from foundations, such as a Walmart foundation, to cover the cost to serve 102 people, the number on its meal waiting list. “That cost annually would be $160,000,” Wetnight said. “If we had not had the budget cut at the start of the year, we would be OK.”

The impact of potential federal cuts could also impact child care.

“We don’t know the impact yet,” said Karen Harding, executive director of the Community Alliance and Services for Young Children. “We have seen numbers where it is estimated Indiana would lose up to 600 vouchers of child care, but nothing has come from the Bureau of Child Care.”

CASY serves 10 counties and has 1,250 families on the Child Care Development Fund, with 2,248 children on a child care voucher. That voucher allows a person to work while a child is in child care. In Vigo County, the average current voucher payment per child per month is $268, Harding said.

The White House estimates Indiana could lose about $619,000 in funds to upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats, including infectious diseases. It also could lose about $1.7 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in about 1,100 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Indiana State Department of Health would lose $146,000 resulting in 3,700 fewer HIV tests.

“Anything on the federal level that affects state funding is going impact health locally,” said Joni Wise, administrator of the Vigo County Health Department. “Whether that means fewer children are optimally immunized or our ability to respond infectious disease outbreaks,” she said.

Wise said the health department will meet with the Vigo County School Corp. to review its immunizations and any possible impacts should Congress not resolve the sequestration issue.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

 

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