MARLINTON, W.Va. – There are some hard feelings around the state about budget cuts and those who run programs for senior citizens say services are at risk.
Dozens of seniors showed up at the state capitol this week to talk with lawmakers about a $1.2 million funding cut Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin made in the new state budget lawmakers passed earlier this year. Lawmakers funded the programs in their version of the budget but the governor made the cut. Pocahontas County Senior Citizens Executive Director John Simmons told MetroNews Wednesday that cut will mean $19,230 less for programs in his county during the next year.
“The choice I have is to cut back on services, which I don’t want to do, or start laying people off, I have to keep my head above water,” Simmons said.
The Pocahontas County senior program worked its way through nearly $17,000 in budget cuts during the past year. Simmons said reductions year after year are starting to have a negative impact. The program is required to provide meals at senior centers in Marlinton and Green Bank deliver meals to 111 other residents and provide in-home care to those who need it.
Simmons said he understands it’s a tight budget year but he doesn’t understand why the governor decided to back off a $1.6 million cut to programs for children and families when those groups staged a protest last month at the state capitol and not think about the seniors.
“But instead of the governor taking half of that 1-point-6 million dollars and giving half of that to the seniors–where we both could of survived—he didn’t do that, he replaced the entire 1-point-6 million,” Simmons said.
Senior programs are not only having their budgets cut but costs are increasing. Simmons said an increase in the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour, supported by Tomblin and the legislature, will increase costs to his county’s senior program by $9,200 during the next year and by $24,000 when the hourly wage increases to $8.75 in 2016.
“We’re getting hammered both ways,” Simmons concluded. “We’ve got cuts in the budget plus we’ve got added costs that we know are coming.”
Senior citizens from 10 different counties spoke with lawmakers this week at the state capitol.