When the new fiscal year begins on July 1, a program to help provide nutritious meals to Oklahoma seniors will have its funding restored. Senate Bill 1017, by Senate Appropriations Chairman Mike Morgan, includes an allocation of $3 million for the Community Expansion of Nutrition Assistance (CENA) program.
“Last year, the Human Services Commission voted to cut the $2.7 million in funding for CENA. But this program is vitally important to so many older Oklahomans. Not only did we restore it, but we increased the allocation to $3 million this year,” said Morgan, D-Stillwater.
The CENA program was created in 1997 by the State Legislature to provide funding for senior centers across Oklahoma. Before its existence just over 13 thousand state seniors were served. By 2001, it was more than 27 thousand.
“The population in Oklahoma, like the rest of the country, is aging and I think it highlights the importance of programs like CENA. This funding, which can be used by centers to pay for food, equipment or building maintenance, can literally mean a huge difference in the quality of life of older Oklahomans who depend on these services,” Morgan said.
Under SB 1017, the CENA program was transferred from the Department of Human Services to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
“The Department of Commerce has tremendous experience with administering various community grant programs. As we looked at CENA, it was only logical that Commerce should administer it as well,” Morgan said.
“At this time Commerce is reviewing the program to determine the final guidelines for the application and distribution of funds. I’m told they should be finished with that within the next couple of weeks. At that point, senior nutrition centers will once again be able to apply for funding—and that’s good news for Oklahoma.”