Last night, Grand Traverse County officials found a way to restore funding for meals delivered to the homebound elderly.
The county Commission on Aging had decided cut its $20,000 dollar contribution to Meals on Wheels and last month the County Commission refused to override that decision. The Commission on Aging is facing declining revenue and this was just one of the cuts it made to programs that serve homebound people.
Jim Savage, a lifelong Traverse City resident, told officials that those seniors who rely on the delivery of one hot meal a day are the same people who paid a lifetime of taxes to support community programs.
“So while the county board and the Commission on Aging tussle over whose responsibility this is and fret over the invasion of their political turf, those dear seniors fret over their next meal,” he said.
Savage vowed that he would raise the $20,000 dollars through private donations if county officials couldn’t come up with it.
But, in a 5-to-4 vote, the county board agreed to take the money from a millage that supports the senior center. Several county board members still felt that would be micromanaging a decision by the Commission on Aging to cut funding for the popular program.
The 20,000 dollars will cover about 3,000 meals, but it’s a fraction what it takes to run the program in the county.
The Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency contracts to run Meals on Wheels in five counties. Lisa Robitshek, who manages the program, says the need is growing and the cost of food is rising. And she says some counties in the region make the meals program a top priority.
“They fund it anywhere between $140 and $360 thousand dollars,” she said. “Then whatever they have remaining after they’ve fully funded those programs then they budget their other services.”
Robitshek says the county contribution is wonderful and the outpouring of verbal support is heartwarming. But it still will take $300,000 dollars from grants and donations to fully fund the program in Grand Traverse County.