Fears Cuts will Cost State More Over Time and Leaves Thousands of Oklahoma’s Most Vulnerable Citizens Hungry
Democratic Leader Charlie Laster called on Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee (R-Oklahoma City) and Speaker of the House Chris Benge (R-Tulsa)today to do everything in their power to reverse a decision made last week by the Department of Human Services to cut $7 million from a program aimed at providing hot meals for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable senior citizens.
“We knew the downturn in Oklahoma’s economy would mean there would be budget cuts,” Laster said. “But the decision by DHS to make Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens shoulder the majority of these cuts is bad policy.”
Laster, a Democrat from Shawnee, said legislative leaders need to consider all options, including evaluating carry over monies within DHS, to help absorb the cuts and save senior nutrition from the chopping block.
Further, the senator said the senior nutrition program is successful at keeping seniors independent longer, allowing them to avoid the cost to taxpayers of caring for these seniors in a nursing home.
“If it costs five dollars a day to feed a senior a hot meal to keep them healthy and out of a nursing home, that five dollars will eventually turn into hundreds of dollars a day in long term care if we make such severe cuts to this program,” Laster said. “And in the process of this horrible fiscal decision, thousands of seniors will go hungry.”
Laster said these cuts hurt seniors in rural areas the hardest, as many senior nutrition centers in rural Oklahoma will be unable to keep their doors open.
“That is unacceptable to me and it needs to be unacceptable to every legislator elected to serve in the Oklahoma Legislature.” He said.
Laster said he hopes that Republicans, in charge of the budgeting process in the legislature, will not ignore the fate of these senior nutrition programs in rural Oklahoma. He pointed to the budget process last session where Republican leaders were poised to eliminate REAP funding, which helps rural Oklahoma economies. Senate Democrats successfully fought to keep the funding intact.