ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A minor spending cut in a sprawling Senate health and welfare bill could threaten home-delivered meals for thousands of poor senior citizens and result in lost federal dollars.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday that a bill from Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, would cut in half projected state spending on senior nutrition program grants to save $2.68 million. The reduction would cost Minnesota another $1.9 million in federal money because it would put state spending on the programs below a required level.
The grants help feed 70,000 seniors through Meals on Wheels programs and group dining in large senior housing facilities.
Jean Wood, who heads the Aging and Adults Services Division at the state Human Services Department, said the combined cuts would reduce overall funding for senior nutrition by a quarter. She estimated that 3,700 people would lose home-delivered meals if the cut were applied only to that service.
The health and welfare bill designed to cut state spending by $1.6 billion over two years is expected to get a vote in the Senate this week as GOP majorities push to pass a plan to erase a $5 billion deficit.
“We’re looking to reduce state spending in the largest area of state spending, which is growing out of control,” Hann said. “None of these are going to be easy.”
Still, Republican lawmakers are nowhere near a budget deal with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, so it’s unclear which proposals are likely to become law. Dayton originally proposed cutting about $800 million from health and welfare programs, but scaled back some of his cuts when the budget outlook improved earlier this month.
Advocates said they hope Dayton will veto the Senate health and welfare bill.
“When we’re working to prepare for a doubling of the senior population in the next 20 years, this is the wrong direction to be going,” said Patrick Rowan, who heads Metro Meals on Wheels in the Twin Cities.
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