TWIN FALLS • Like all agencies dependent on federal money, the College of Southern Idaho Office on Aging is keeping a close eye on D.C.
And like most agency managers, Director Jim Fields isn’t quite sure how the apparently inevitable budget cuts will shake out, or how big the reductions will be. But he and others are preparing for some tough decisions that will affect Magic Valley seniors in light of federal sequestration, which is expected to take effect today.
The Office on Aging’s pool of money helps pay for multiple programs, including meals and food delivery at area senior centers, gas for volunteers who drive seniors to appointments, and respite care for full-time family caregivers.
Fields said he has heard multiple figures on how much the state will lose in senior funding. Based on last year’s numbers, Fields calculated a maximum of $87,000 in cuts as the worst case, spread among his district’s eight counties. That will affect 15 senior centers and 3 satellite senior programs.
Which programs will the cuts touch? Fields isn’t sure, but he imagines a few scenarios. He could wait to find out if anyone wants to retire early and save money through attrition, or impose furloughs. The center could also trim services, or cut back contributions to other agencies like Idaho Legal Aid.
Jeanette Roe, financial director for the Twin Falls Senior Center, said the Office on Aging provides 19 percent of the funding for the center’s home-delivered meals program. Other funding sources include fundraisers, program participants and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but without the money from the Office on Aging, the program would be in trouble.
“Our second-biggest portion of the pie comes from the Office on Aging, so it's vital that we have that money,” Roe said.
Fields said he and his office will work to continue serving the seniors, but added it will be impossible for everyone to escape the effects of sequester.
“It's going to affect all of us,” he said.