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Elderly nutrition bracing for a hit

Governor proposed a $1.5 million cut

Updated: Sunday, 29 Jan 2012, 7:54 PM EST
Published : Sunday, 29 Jan 2012, 5:22 PM EST

SPRINGFIELD, (Mass.) - WWLP - Residents say the Governor’s proposed spending plan could affect thousands of seniors in Western Massachusetts.

“Maybe this is an opportunity to make a bigger point. We have to start doing things differently,” said Governor Deval Patrick in a press conference last Wednesday after unveiling a $32 billion dollar spending plan.

According to Governor Patrick, the measure is designed to save the Commonwealth millions by eliminating 400 executive state jobs and creating an additional $260 million in new revenue from an increase in cigarette tax. It’s an increase in funding that would streamline $4.1 billion into schools.

The plan, in addition to other proposals, includes the imminent closing of a state prison and a $1.5 million dollar cut to the elderly nutrition program.

“A lot of these folks are starving as it is and to take their food away, it's just despicable, it's unthinkable to take the food away from these folks,” said Marie Debarge of Agawam, whose husband is the family’s sixth generation in the military. “A lot of them are already choosing wether to buy groceries or pay their medication,” said Debarge. Her husband, a Gulf-War veteran, is disabled and they live on a fixed income.

Advocates against the measure say the cut would eliminate close to a quarter of a million free meals and threaten the livelihood of seniors who are already on a strapped budget.

“Extremely concerned, not just for my folks but for all of the other people. A lot of people are on fixed incomes. Their money coming in doesn't change and the costs of the things around them goes up, so they have to do with less and less,” said Russ Pike of Southwick.

And Pike's concern is well grounded as his parents are becoming increasingly homebound.

“They are having a real hard time, they are at that age where it's very difficult preparing the meals. They can't get out and do the shopping themselves so I have to help them with that,” said Pike.

Both state legislative branches will now draft separate budget proposals before taking a vote in July.