We agree with the push to reduce federal spending that led to the across-the-board cuts known as “sequestration.”
But the blunt nature of the reductions have caused hardships that could have been avoided had federal lawmakers worked together to identify more targeted cuts. The effects are felt in McHenry County.
The spending reductions, which took hold in March, are meant to cut $85.4 billion in federal spending this year, and $1.1 trillion in federal spending over 10 years.
Many agencies, from the Pentagon in Washington to The Salvation Army in Crystal Lake, were left to find a way to absorb the cuts and still offer services that people count on.
Among the sequestration cuts was funding for senior meals, resulting in 4 million fewer federally assisted meals to be served.
Locally, that means The Salvation Army’s Golden Diners program has been forced to contract at a time when its costs continue to rise.
The Golden Diners program, which operates in Kane and McHenry counties and projects it will serve 196,000 meals this fiscal year, gets about $600,000 from the USDA’s Nutrition Services Incentive Program.
Because of the federal sequestration, the program had a 4 percent cut, or $32,000, in its USDA funding, said Maj. Ken Nicolai, who administers the program for The Salvation Army.
Nicolai said The Salvation Army decided to hold off on capital purchases, such as vehicles, to prevent seniors from feeling the cuts.
Many of the clients say the service is a key factor in helping them remain in their homes, rather than in an institutional home. For some it also provides one of a few opportunities to socialize with others and a regular source of well-being checks.
Most programs that receive federal funding are deemed worthy by someone, which is what makes budget reductions unpopular.
However, the Golden Diners is a program that has a tangible benefit to our community – and many across the country – by helping seniors stay in their homes.
It is a shame, although not surprising, that our representatives in Washington could not reach an agreement that would have allowed for targeted cuts.
We encourage local residents who can to donate to this program in hopes of making up the difference, so these vital meals can continue for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.