Budget cuts force senior centers to cut hours

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- Federal and state budget cuts have forced senior centers across Region 8 to reduce hours and meals.

The East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging has senior centers in 12 counties. This year the general revenue for the state for the senior centers was cut by nearly $900,000 dollars.

For many Jonesboro seniors, this center is their home away from home.

"There's always something to do here that can keep their attention," said Gene Roebuck.

Roebuck has been coming to the senior center for nearly 7 years.

"My wife died 8 years ago, and it really just gives me a purpose," Roebuck said. "It gave me people here that I can have fellowship with, we have nice meals, they just go overboard trying to take care of our needs."

But federal and state budget cuts have forced the senior centers in Region 8 to cut back on some of their services.

"When you are talking about less funding that's available for the senior center, you're really talking about the whole operation from the amount of time your able to be open, to the amount of staff you have at the senior centers to basically the services you are able to provide that community," said Melissa Prater, director of purchases services at East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging.

Prater said the cuts have forced centers to trim their hours down two and three hours.

"That gives basically the staff time to go pick up seniors that need to be brought in to the senior center," she said. "Help prepare lunch, maybe include one activity in that time frame, and then after lunch basically turn around and take them back home."

And if senior centers face more cuts in the future, Prater said they will have to make some tough decisions.

"We never want to see a senior center close because obviously it's serving a need," Prater said." Of course worst case scenario you're going to look at your senior centers that don't serve the larger population."

For seniors like Roebuck, this center gives them the family they may no longer have.

"It can't take the place of our brothers and sisters and kids and everything but it does give them a place that they really can belong to," he said.

Several senior centers in the state have had to close their doors because of budget cuts. Prater says they will do everything they can to keep that from happening.

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