Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bennett Files Bill to Save Lunches

State Rep. John Bennett this week filed legislation to protect senior citizens and the disabled who receive assistance through the Department of Human Services (DHS).

House Bill 1073 would require DHS to fully fund the Advantage Home and Community-based Waiver Program that allows aging adults to be cared for in their homes.

It also would require full funding for senior nutrition programs and for Developmental Disability Service Programs. Ensuring these programs are fully funded at the state level also ensures they receive federal matching funds.

The funding cuts are forcing the closing of the Haskell Nutrition Site on Friday.

“DHS knows they can threaten programs for our most vulnerable instead of digging deeper into their administrative budget and finding greater efficiencies,” said Bennett (R-Sallisaw). “This legislation will ensure our most vulnerable state residents are served with the taxpayer dollars that were intended for them.

“Our senior citizens have sacrificed and paved the way for this current generation and the ones coming behind it. It is only right they are shown respect and appreciation, and that we extend to them the same level of commitment they’ve shown to us,” Bennett continued.

“I would encourage all of those who want to protect funding for our seniors and disabled to contact their state representative and encourage them to support House Bill 1073,” he said. 

Bennett said he has long supported auditing agency budgets to help find duplication, waste and efficiencies. Until those audits are completed, he will continue to draft and support legislation to line-item services for vulnerable children and adults.

John Bennett represents Oklahoma House District 2, which is Sequoyah County. He can be reached at (405) 557-7315 or John.Bennett@okhouse.gov.

In August the Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced that planned reductions totaling about $30 million over the course of the next fiscal year to a number of programs serving vulnerable children and adults. Those programs include the senior nutrition program which served 64,086 meals in Sequoyah County last year. 

A spokesman for the Sequoyah County Nutrition Program confirmed on Tuesday that the Haskell Nutrition Site was to close on Friday due to funding cuts. The Haskell Nutrition Site is the smallest served in the area.

Stacy Turner, director of the Eastern Oklahoma Development District Area Agency on Aging in Muskogee, said in July she did not know how her agency or the Sequoyah County Nutrition program will handle the cuts.

The Area Agency on Aging is the pass through agency through which federal, state and local funds provide resources or referrals for older persons, age 60 and older, in the Adair, Cherokee, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okmulgee, Sequoyah, and Wagoner counties service area.

Turner said the cuts to her agency only will be $194,420. Her total budget is $1,497,850 for seven counties.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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