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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Focuses on Sequester Impact on Wisconsin Senior Programs

Highlights Meals on Wheels Voices at Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Hearing

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today highlighted the impact of sequestration on Wisconsin seniors at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee's Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging hearing on the Older Americans Act. For FY 2013, sequestration would reduce funding for Wisconsin’s Meals on Wheels program by five percent.

“The Older Americans Act has been a nearly 50-year-old promise—enacted in the same year as the creation of Medicare—that seniors in our country may live in dignity, with independence, and in the comfort of their own homes,” said Senator Baldwin. “Though Older Americans Act programs often serve as a lifeline to seniors, their importance is too often forgotten by lawmakers. Today, rather than tell you about my own support for Older Americans Act programs and my work with Senator Sanders to reauthorize and strengthen the law, I thought I’d let Wisconsin seniors tell you about their own experiences with Older Americans Act nutrition programs.”

Senator Baldwin shared with the committee the stories of Wisconsin seniors from the La Crosse Aging Unit in La Crosse, who sent her 40 paper plates sharing their appreciation for the Older Americans Act meals programs: (VIDEO)

Gladys wrote: “A large number of seniors are alone or disabled and do not do well for themselves nutritionally or socially. The nutrition sites and senior centers provide both social life and a balanced meal at least once a day. These sites are needed now and the need will increase. Please keep funding!!!”

Father Bob wrote: “When I found the La Crosse Aging Unit and the mealtime lunch service, they made such a huge tremendous relief and change. I am quite sure if I had not found this service of “meals on wheels”; many days I would not have the energy or the willingness to even try to make a sandwich…I am so glad that I found this service.”

Mary wrote: “Please make it one of your priorities to restore full funding to Meals on Wheels and other programs that meet vital needs in our community and across the US. As one undergoing new treatments, the meals are a wonderful service at this time in my life.”

And Donna wrote: “I enjoy having meals at the nutrition site as they are good and good for me and I use them as my main meal. We have a wonderful time playing cribbage before and wherever there is cribbage you will find me.”

Senator Baldwin has been a long-time supporter of the Older Americans Act and is an original co-sponsor of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2013 (S.1028) to reauthorize and improve Older Americans Act programs. Congress enacted the Older Americans Act in 1965 to provide federal funding and the infrastructure for the delivery of critical social services like meals, senior centers, caregiver support, and job training services to help seniors maintain independence in their homes and communities. The law has been reauthorized numerous times to respond to the needs of the older population and was last reauthorized in 2006 and expired in September 2011.

“I stand ready to work with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to reauthorize the Older Americans Act and strengthen economic security for Wisconsin seniors,” said Baldwin, who met with Marcy Berner-Reedy, Executive Director at Beloit Meals On Wheels, before today’s hearing.

According to a report assembled by the Meals on Wheels Foundation, more than eight million seniors face the threat of hunger. In addition, according to the Administration on Aging, in 2010, Wisconsin served 416,982 seniors under Title III programs, including 49,304 seniors in rural areas. Sequestration is reducing funding for Title III programs in Wisconsin between 2.4 and 5.8 percent. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that fewer than 10 percent of seniors eligible for home-delivered meals were getting them even before sequestration resulted in a cut of over $40 million from senior meals programs.

The House Republican Budget authored by Congressman Paul Ryan locks in sequester and makes further cuts to investments that will impact programs like Meals on Wheels. The Senate Democratic Budget that Senator Baldwin helped pass as member of the Budget Committee, replaces sequester through a balanced approach of targeted spending cuts, closing tax loopholes and ensuring that the wealthiest American’s pay their fair share – keeping our promise to seniors by preserving and protecting federal programs, like nutrition services.