The money question: Utah tries to make sense of sequestration

Published: Friday, Feb. 22 2013 9:05 p.m. MST

Utah receives $8.2 million in federal dollars that in part provides more than 2 million meals either through home delivery or at senior centers to residents age 60 or older.

Nels Holmgren, director of the state Division of Aging Services, said that pot of money also goes to provide caregiver support and other nutrition services. Together, state and federal dollars make up about half the funding for meals that are delivered or served at the centers under the purview of 12 local aging agencies.

"Whatever version of the sequester kicks in will definitely have an impact on the state," Holmgren said. "At this point, the question is what the size of the impact will be."

Holmgren said the politicization of the cuts has local money managers sifting through the information with caution and wariness.

"Some of it has to be taken with a grain of salt."

Ken Venables, spokesman for Salt Lake County Aging Services, said Utah seniors should refrain from worrying about reductions in services like Meals on Wheels.

"We will make sure every single necessary precaution is taken to maintain these critical services."

In Holladay, Denise Keate is hoping her meals keep coming.

"I just think it's the most wonderful program that has ever been," said Keate, who will turn 82 in April.

Hospitalized for a time and suffering from extreme rheumatoid arthritis, Keate said the meals have been a godsend, helping her to remain in her home.

"That is the horror all of us live with," she said, speaking to the fear of having to go into a nursing home. "People staying in their home, able to survive and take care of themselves, sometimes this is the only way to do it."

If cuts have to come, she urged those in charge of the money to look elsewhere.

"Let's not pick on the old. We went through the Depression and World War II. Give us a break."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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