Santa Barbara- S County

Low-income seniors in Santa Barbara County face food insecurity under budget cuts

Budget impacts on low-income seniors

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - A Santa Barbara County private non-profit which feeds 600 low-income seniors daily could lose a portion of its funding under proposed budget cuts.

Arlene McArthur, 71, gets a fresh meal delivered to her Carpinteria home every day. On Fridays, she gets two additional frozen meals to last through the weekend. The wheelchair bound senior is one of approximately 300 seniors who get meals delivered. Another 300 seniors are served meals at more than a dozen community centers throughout the county on a daily basis.

"I would be totally devastated without it. I can't stand. I can't walk. I can't do things," said McArthur. "I wouldn't be able to eat a decent meal."

It's part of the Community Action Commission's (CAC) Meals on Wheels program. The countywide agency provides services for the low-income community, including the elderly. The program serves 1,200 seniors each year. According to Housing and Urban Development guidelines, 95% of those seniors are low-income. 

The CAC gets two-thirds of its funding from the Older American's Act and seniors in the program.

The meals are offered at no cost, but seniors are asked to contribute what they can. The suggested donation is $3, but on average most seniors can only contribute 80 cents per meal.

The rest of the non-profit's funding is raised through private donations and grants. Two of those grants are the Community Development Block Grant (CDBC), and the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) which are distributed from the federal government through the State of California.

The loss of city and county CDBG grants, coupled with the loss of CSBG grants would be equate to a total loss of $200,000 to the program.

If the gap isn't closed, seniors would be put on waiting lists and some services would be cut back, according to Holly Carmody of the CAC. 

"We would do everything we could to raise the money because we want every senior to get a meal who needs a meal," said Holly Carmody, of the CAC. "The seniors are deciding between buying food and buying medicine, between buying food or paying their rent. They will suffer."

If the budget cuts are approved, another CAC program that would be eliminated is one that helps seniors and families pay utility bills to avoid shutoffs.

The CAC works with and compliments the city of Santa Barbara's Meals on Wheels program, which would not be impacted by cuts.

To learn more about the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, click here.


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