Illinois budget cuts will hurt local Meals on Wheels programs

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EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (KTVI) – The Illinois budget impasse is affecting the Meals on Wheels program and other senior services, even though most of the funding comes from the federal government. Two programs just across the river will prepare their final meals for delivery Friday and then shut down their kitchens.

As many as 300 seniors will not receive a meal next week from either the Clyde C. Jordan Senior Center in East Saint Louis or the Waterloo Senior Center, operated by the Western Egyptian Economic Opportunity Council.

Federal funds for the not-for-profit agencies are frozen in Springfield. Joy Paeth, CEO of Agesmart Community Resources, calls the situation "an immediate emergency."

“It is like shooting your wounded; the frailest of the frail are the people who are being hit the hardest," she said.

Agesmart is an area agency on aging, serving seven counties in the metro east. Paeth warns that thousands of seniors across Illinois may lose services they depend on in order to remain living in their homes.

Illinois legislators must appropriate the federal dollars for the senior programs before the agencies can access the cash. Without a budget organizations like the Waterloo senior center are being forced to close. Senior citizens who rely on such services may be in jeopardy. Even the transportation to doctors and dialysis appointments will be suspended until the Illinois legislature and the governor agree on a budget for the current financial year.

"Our drivers take in the mail, get their newspaper, and if they need a light bulb changed; it's more than just taking a meal and dropping it off and saying hi," said Kim Elizalde, site coordinator at the Waterloo center.

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