State leaders were called upon today to immediately meet in special session to stop more than $7 million in budget cuts that will lead to the closing of senior nutrition centers statewide and imperil the lives of thousands of Oklahoma’s oldest citizens, state Sen. Kenneth Corn said today.
State Department of Human Services officials cut nearly 30 percent of the state’s nutrition program budget earlier this week, eliminating funding for more than 780,000 hot meals that are scheduled to be served to the state’s elderly and home bound citizens during the remainder of the fiscal year.
The cut, DHS officials said, was made in response to declining state revenues. It is the second time this fall DHS has cut its budget because of revenue shortfalls.
The nutrition program serves hot meals on a daily basis to thousands of senior citizens in nearly every Oklahoma community, either through community kitchens, senior citizen centers, or the meals-on-wheels program. In many cases, the food the program serves is the only hot meal many elderly Oklahomans receive each day.
Corn, D-Poteau, criticized DHS Commissioners for making the nutrition program shoulder virtually the entire round of budget cuts. As a veteran of the appropriations committee during the budget problems in 2002 and 2003, Corn said he understands revenue shortfalls require cuts, but absent legislative intervention, the cuts will continue to be automatically applied and will cause irreversible harm, especially to our most vulnerable citizens. No other program was cut as deep as the nutrition program in the second round of reductions, according to DHS documents.
“If this stands, many of our elderly are going to go hungry and risk their health and independence. To me that is absolutely unacceptable,” Corn said. “No one should go without the food they need to live!”