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Local lobbyist: Trump fiscal blueprint will have ripple effects on our economy and hurt the elderly

  • Copies of President Donald Trump's first budget are displayed at the Government Printing Office in Washington, Thursday, March, 16, 2017. Trump unveiled a 1.15 trillion budget on Thursday, a far-reaching overhaul of federal government spending that slashes many domestic programs to finance a significant increase in the military and make a down payment on a U.S.-Mexico border wall. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite



Recorder Staff
Friday, March 17, 2017

GREENFIELD — Seniors advocate Al Norman, executive director of Massachusetts Home Care, says President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would significantly hurt the growing elderly population in Franklin County over the next decade.

The budget, the new president’s first, if followed by Congress would have “ripple effects on our economy,” particularly impeding hospitals’ ability to provide proper care, said Norman, a Greenfield resident who has spent his career advocating for seniors statewide.

“I wanted people to understand that on one hand the sky isn’t falling, but on the other hand these are serious cuts because the elderly population is growing,” Norman said.

In the outlined budget, which does not include line items to explain potential cuts to specific government programs, Norman said there would be major cuts made to Medicaid through House Speaker Paul Ryan’s health care plan, resulting in a potential drop of 306,000 enrollees statewide by 2026.

A cut to Medicaid in Massachusetts could affect both the poor and the growing elderly population.

“We don’t want to replace the Affordable Care Act with the uninsured care act,” Norman said.

He also conservatively estimated Massachusetts would lose about $1.21 million for the Older American Act.

Norman said the president’s proposed budget to Congress would cut $12.6 billion in federal funding to the Department of Health and Human Services, which houses the Administration for Community Living and the Administration on Aging. He said that about $10 billion in that cut is attributed to slashes to the National Institute of Health.

Massachusetts received $10.1 million in 2017 from the Older American Act. This potential cut Norman calculates would cost the state $337,340 in related funded. He said that would also result in a $609,894 cut in nutrition funding, which would amount to about 81,317 meals lost.

“This is a general outline of things that (President Trump) wants from Congress, but fortunately Congress has its own mind and process for the budget,” Norman said.

Programs for the elderly that provide services like housing, meals, energy, job services and care could be cut, if Congress would follow the president’s recommendations.

The executive director of LifePath, formerly Franklin County Home Care Corp., sees this as an issue that could have “devastating” consequences to the programs the organization runs for elderly care.

“It’s all daunting because it’s not just Meals on Wheels, it’s across the board as to what will happen with many of the programs,” Roseann Martoccia said.

Martoccia said the federal funding the organization currently receives is insufficient, and LifePath has to annually raise money for programs. In the short term, she said advocacy will be the primary tool to prevent significant cuts. In the long term, strategies may change.

“We’re going to have to really evaluate our fundraising efforts,” Martoccia said.

The blueprint would also likely cut the Massachusetts $140 million fuel assistance program, which provides financial assistance to cover heating costs in the winter.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264