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Dec 14, 2012 5:51 PM by Andy Koen

Fiscal cliff would cost local seniors meals, transportation

COLORADO SPRINGS - The inability of Congress to reach a deal to avoid automatic sequestration spending cuts could end up hurting the elderly in our community. Guy Dutra-Silveira, executive director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging, is anticipating a loss in funding for up to 15,000 meals and 7,000 rides next year should the spending cuts take affect.

The agency distributes federal subsidies to Silver Key, the Colorado Springs Senior Center and other groups that provide meals and transportation services to people age 60 and over in El Paso, Teller and Park Counties.  Dutra-Silveira estimates as many as 200,000 meals a year are currently provided through the subsidies.

"The services that we provide now, some of them have waiting lists," Dutra-Silveira explained. "One of our big providers is Silver Key Senior Services and they're currently turning away about 200 rides a month."

He says when seniors don't have access to meals or the ability to get to the grocery store or the doctors office, they're much more likely to end up on Medicaid creating an even larger burden on taxpayers.

Providing someone a meal every day might $300 per month. But Dutra-Silveira says, "if they end up going into a skilled care facility that can be $5,000-$7,000 a month."

The Colorado Springs Senior Center typically serves between 100-150 meals each day. Charles Barber has come here for lunch for the past 12 years. He knows the spending cuts will leave many seats empty in the cafeteria.

"I delivered a personal letter to my State Representative, to my two Senators asking them to please behave as adults," Barber said.

On Tuesday, the PPACG board joined Barber by issuing a proclamation calling on Colorado's Congressional Delegation to work together on a budget compromise.

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