Kevin Winge

Kevin Winge is a native of Minnesota. He lives in San Francisco, California where he is is the executive director of Project Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that provides nutritious meals to people living with disease. Read more about Kevin Winge.

Harming the Elderly is No Solution to State’s Budget Woes

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Government, Politics Updated: March 30, 2011 - 2:55 AM
Has no Republican in the Minnesota Senate had an elderly parent that they have spent sleepless nights worrying about? Has no GOP senator had to rush from work to check on an aged mother or father because they haven’t answered repeated phone calls and then, when they arrive at their childhood home, nervously unlocked the door, anxious about what they might discover? Has no majority member of the Republican controlled state senate opened the refrigerator in their parents’ kitchen and been appalled by what their senior mother and father were eating – or not eating?
 
Certainly one of them has been in this position and will speak out against their own party’s plan to cut $2.68 million from the state’s senior nutrition program as part of a two-year omnibus health and human services bill currently being considered in the state senate.
 
The senior nutrition program partially funds meals on wheels, home-delivered groceries, and congregate dining sites for seniors to go for meals and socialization. These are the very services that provide peace of mind for the children of aged parents. They are the programs that thousands of Minnesotans volunteer for every day, delivering meals and in so doing, checking in on some of our state’s most isolated and vulnerable residents. These are also the investments that keep seniors living independently in their homes and out of costly nursing homes.
 
Cutting nearly $2.7 million from the senior nutrition program is shortsighted. To do so means an additional loss of $1.9 million in federal funds. That makes the actual hit to Minnesota seniors $4.6 million dollars, culminating in an overall funding cut of 25%.
 
Approximately 70,000 Minnesotans benefit from these senior nutrition programs. If this proposal were to pass, as many as 3,700 seniors would be off the programs. Do the math. Without proper nutrition at home, some of these seniors will need to go to nursing homes, and receiving meals on wheels is a strong indicator that they would lack the funds to pay for nursing home care from their personal resources. At a conservative rate of $4,000 per month ($48,000 a year), subsidized by the government, only 56 seniors would need to move to a nursing home before the $2.68 million in savings would be gone. Minnesotans are known for our common sense. Common sense tells us that more than 56 people annually will end up in a nursing home if they lack adequate food and nutrition in their homes. This proposal is bad fiscal policy. And it’s heartless.
 
It’s heartless because it impacts the very people who contributed to making Minnesota, which was until recently, the envy of the nation. These are the people who worked hard so their children could have a leg up in life. They paid their taxes, volunteered in their communities and thought more about the future than the here and now. Some of them are what Tom Brokaw has called the “Greatest Generation.” If this proposal is allowed to pass, what will our generation be called? “The Generation that Didn’t Give a Damn About Old People?”
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