Second week of special budget session begins Monday

NEW ORLEANS — Monday lawmakers will be back in Baton Rouge sharpening their pencils as they try to close a $940 million budget gap for this fiscal year. One group of cuts already made has outraged the Council on Aging locally. The organization plans to take its fight to the state capitol Tuesday.

“I hate to say it’s dire, but it is,” said Howard Rodgers, executive director for the New Orleans Council on Aging.

The non-profit oversees 15 senior centers,11 of which will likely close immediately given new cuts for the last quarter of this fiscal year.

“We’re trying to develop a plan B. We hope it doesn’t get to a worst case scenario,” said Rodgers.

The state has also proposed cutting $510,000 in funding for them in next year’s budget. Rodgers says the move will impact what he calls ‘life services’ for 3,000 seniors in our area.

“People think at senior centers you just play bingo, but there’s a variety of activities,” said Rodgers. “Some have computer classes, others like Uptown Shepherd Center has foreign language classes. We’re also going to be looking at the reduction of our Meals On Wheels program. This is very critical, because for some of our clients that’s the only hot meal they receive in a day.”

That’s left a bad taste in State Rep. Walt Leger’s mouth.

“It’s outrageous. These are the kinds of things that make communities and neighborhoods strong so when they start suffering, I think everyone starts suffering,” said Leger.

Leger says years of spending billions more on corporate incentives than surrounding states has finally caught up with Louisiana, and it’s time for some tough decisions.

“If we make some spending cuts in both the operation of our government and in the subsidies provided to big business,” said Ledger. “I think we’ll get where we need to go.”

Rodgers says maintaining services to seniors is key to keeping them independent and healthy.

“Just think about the isolation they are now going to have because they’re not around their friends and being around people encourages them to keep going on with their life,” said Rodgers.

Tuesday at 8:30 in the morning a bus full of seniors and their supporters will depart from the Council on Aging on Canal street to sway lawmakers to stop them from making these budget cuts.

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