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SAAA: Budget to buffer some federal cuts


By Alex Bridges

A budget surplus may buffer the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging from a federal sequestration, an SAAA official said Friday.

The agency responsible for serving Meals on Wheels to the region's home-bound seniors has not yet determined how much it could lose should the federal government cut funding to such programs. SAAA Director of Fiscal Operations Jonathan Price said Friday he expects to receive figures for the agency in Front Royal in the coming weeks.

SAAA's budget includes a surplus that should buffer the agency from revenue lost in sequestration. Agency spending also remains under budget, Price said.

He said he didn't see the agency being impacted that badly.

"We think about these things. ... With how federal funding is working now there is always a possibility of something happening," Price said.

"We have all the right precautions in place to deal with something like this," Price added. "So we're not sweating bullets as probably some agencies are."

The SAAA budget for the current fiscal period includes $1.03 million in federal funding that pays for all programs. That amount includes $205,706 in federal funds for Meals on Wheels.

The threat of cuts to Meals on Wheels and other programs as a result of the federal "sequestration" spurred representatives from several groups to gather outside the Active Living Center, a popular site in Winchester's Jim Barnett Park used for many SAAA activities.

Mike Wallace, an organizer with Virginia Fair Share, said participants held the event Friday to raise public awareness on how the sequester could affect social services. Participants called upon Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, to close corporate-tax loopholes and help end the sequester.

Workers with Virginia Organizing and Winchester City councilman Evan Clark joined the effort.

In February, Wolf expressed frustration as congressional and executive leaders reached another impasse. Wolf sent letters to President Obama and to Republican House Speaker John Boehner urging both to back bipartisan plans the congressman indicated would avoid sequestration.

But while the debates continue in Congress, federal spending cuts affect agencies and programs locally.

White Post resident Mary Bathory Vidaver volunteers with Virginia Organizing and attended the event Friday. Participants sought to stimulate public conversation about sequestration potential impact at the local level, she said.

Bathory Vidaver acknowledged that some information about the impact remains unknown.

"What is not unknown is that the federal funds that support these programs are likely to disappear and they will either have to be made up at the local level or simply cut and that has impacts on people," Bathory Vidaver said.

Virginia's Meals on Wheels programs could face a reduction in federal funds of approximately $1.2 million, according to Wallace. Wallace cited the $83 million in across-the-board cuts expected to affect education, public safety and health, as well as the impact on services that provide meals to seniors, on domestic violence prevention programs, job assistance and child vaccinations.

The federal government loses approximately $90 billion per year and states about $40 billion to foreign tax havens, Wallace noted. Closing tax loopholes could save

Price noted in an email, "With these safeguards, the agency does not anticipate an appreciable impact on services as a result of sequestration."

SAAA officials continue to address, but do not plan to use their operational budgets to pay down the agency's high amount of debt. The SAAA has hired a consultant to help it ramp up its fundraising efforts, the fruits from which agency officials plan to use to pay down the debt.

The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services provided each of the state's 25 agencies with information received from the federal Administration for Community Living on projected reductions in funds as a result of sequestration, according to Public Relations Director A.J. Hostetler.

The department had not provided the agencies with information on their anticipated share of the reductions, Hostetler said in an email Friday.

"DARS is still working on the formula that Virginia uses to distribute the federal funds to the AAAs, which is somewhat dependent on Congress passing the continuing resolution by March 27," Hostetler states.

Area agencies receive state and local money to provide programs through the Older Americans Act, services that would not see an impact as a result of sequestration. As such the funding will dilute the overall reduction caused by sequestration.

Information from the state department shows an estimated reduction of more than $2 million in federal funds for Older Americans Act programs. The reduction would affect funding for home-delivered and congregate meals as well as preventive health, elder abuse, the ombudsman, support services and other programs.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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