Eastern Area Agency on Aging to close doors on Fridays because of federal cuts

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Posted March 15, 2013, at 12:38 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Federal budget cuts have hit a Bangor organization geared toward helping seniors, forcing it to close its doors on Fridays beginning in April.

The across-the-board cuts that came down this month are forcing many federal and state agencies to find ways to chop their budgets.

“We have no choice but to close on Fridays,” said Noelle Merrill, executive director of Eastern Area Agency on Aging. “We have looked at the budgets and simply cannot perform with the current numbers, and while we are troubled by the effect this will have on the community we serve, it is the best solution to preserve most of our services.”

The agency, which has a $2.2 million operating budget, was informed earlier this month that it would need to cut between $60,000 and $70,000 from its budget over the next six months, according to Merrill.

The director said there were few viable options to reach that level of reductions.

“We don’t have very many big line items,” Merrill said. “One of them is food, and we know how people are relying on us for food now.”

The agency serves about 3,500 elderly and disabled clients through its food programs, which provide 170,000 meals per year across Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties.

Merrill said the organization also provides seniors with paperwork assistance, tax services and driving services.

The cuts were dire for the agency, which provides heavily used services in a state with the oldest median age in the nation, according to Merrill.

Eastern Area Agency on Aging will still serve clients Monday through Thursday by appointment. Home visits will be curtailed, but the nutrition program will remain intact and continue to provide meals to seniors, according to a press release from the organization.

The agency receives most of its funding from the federal government, which distributes money to a nationwide network of agencies on aging under the Older Americans Act, as well as a smaller portion from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Merrill said other agencies on aging in the state are working to pinpoint cuts of their own.

“Unfortunately, as hard as we try to prevent it, this decision will probably present some hardship for our clientele across the 13,000 square miles we serve, and for that, we are truly sorry,” Merrill said. “We just don’t have any choice.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/03/15/news/bangor/eastern-area-agency-on-aging-to-close-doors-on-fridays-because-of-federal-cuts/ printed on November 26, 2014