Ocean County will continue nutrition programs for the elderly, even if the proposed sequestration cuts go through on Friday, Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said today.
Without the nutrition program, elderly and disabled people who are unable to cook for themselves will "wind up in the E.R.," Vicari said at a Ocean County Board of Freeholders caucus meeting today.
"We will do something to maintain services," he said. "We will continue the program. You don't cut programs as important as the senior programs."
Vicari wrote to President Obama on Feb. 25, asking his help to prevent "severe cuts" in the nutrition program.
"We would need to cut 26,000 meals in Ocean County, when we already have a wait list of almost 200 people for home-delivered meals," Vicari said in the letter.
Ocean County would see a 10 percent cut in support services for the elderly, including transportation, adult protective services, home care, caregiver services, fix-it programs, benefits assistance and adult protective services, he said.
"Never has a warm, nutritious meal delivered with a friendly smile and a caring heart been more appreciated by so many of our Ocean County elderly than this past season when Hurricane Sandy hit," Vicari said in the letter.
Of the 52,877 FEMA applications filed in Ocean County after Sandy, 15,865 are senior citizens, he said.
"This is the worst time possible time for Older Americans Act programs to be cut, when so many older adults and their families are counting on our support, while county and local governments are reeling from the recovery costs," Vicari wrote.
Annual county nutrition screenings have found that 65 percent of those who receive delivered meals are at "high nutritional risk," Vicari said.
"Since the Nutrition Program for the Elderly helps to sustain so many of our frail and vulnerable residents, I implore you to take the necessary measures to waive this vital program from the effects of sequestration, so this lifeline to the elderly continues," he wrote in the letter.
Ocean County has the largest percentage of people over 65 in the state and in Florida, with the fastest growing segment in the 85+ group, he said.