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Posted: October 10, 2013 8:55 p.m.

Senior programs may be halted

Seniors aided by federally funded programs through Newton County Senior Services may soon see those programs halted if the government shutdown continues.

Josephine Brown, director of Newton County Senior Services, said she received word from the Northeast Georgia Area Agency on Aging that if the government shutdown is not resolved by Oct. 15, letters would go out notifying Area Agency on Aging clients that there is a possibility that those services will be discontinued.

Brown said Peggy Jenkins, Northeast Georgia AAA director, notified her Thursday that those letters have already been distributed in Newton County and other counties in the Northeast Georgia region, as clients needed to be given a 30-day notice. She said federally funded services could possibly be cut as early as Nov. 15.

Services funded by federal grants include the home-delivery meals program, which is approximately 100-plus meals a day; transportation services to and from the senior center; and some outreach and recreation activities at the senior center, Brown said. She also said a portion of those funds go into employees’ salaries at Senior Services, particularly for transportation service drivers.

She said Senior Services annually receives about $40,000 in federal funds to run its transportation program and $179,000 from the Northeast Georgia AAA for its home-delivery meals program and other recreation activities at the center. 

Brown said those funds are paid as monthly reimbursements, and if reimbursements don’t continue, those services will have to cease, she said, unless someone "steps in and help us out, in terms of helping to maintain the meals for those clients who get home-delivery meals, or for those clients who come to the center, or even give us money to buy gas for the vehicles."

Brown noted that the clients who benefit from federally funded senior programs have worked all their lives, and many have served their country.

"I just think it’s unfortunate that the people are held hostage because of selfish convictions coming from our elected officials in the federal government," Brown said.

"They’re not giving rational thinking to what they’re doing, because I think in every family on this earth… there is somebody in that family who is in need of some services that are funded by the federal government. And for them to stand and act as though they are acting with a good conscience and use this as a tug-of-war, you know it’s unfortunate."

Brown said it’s her prayer that some resolutions take place over the weekend so that services to clients are not interrupted.

She said Senior Services administrators, the Northeast Georgia AAA, and Newton County Manager John Middleton will be working together in the coming days to see if a back-up plan can be developed in case federally funded services are in fact discontinued.

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