By Jordan Smith
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Baltimore County Council has approved a supplemental appropriation bill that would supply additional meals to senior citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) funds total $591,531 with $492,942 going for Home-Delivered Meals and $98,589 used for the Congregate Meals Gifts and Grants Fund programs. The 2020 fiscal year budget included $622,083 and $939,749 for the Home-Delivered Meals and Congregate Meals programs, respectively. The additional funds will be used to serve new clients, officials said.
“Seniors are calling in and saying, ‘I just can’t get out of the house’ and ‘I have no one to grocery shop for me,’ ” said Laura Riley, director of the Department of Aging.
Riley said the extra funds will be used to serve an additional 220 new clients on top of the 200 currently enrolled clients in existing programs.
The FFCRA Home-Delivered Meals will receive $492,942 to give one hot and one cold meal daily for up to five or more days per week for homebound seniors or seniors unable to prepare meals because of illness and unable to pay the Meals on Wheels service fees.
“We actually are supplementing a large number of those meals in Baltimore County,” Riley said. “We added 82 clients the first of April and [Meals on Wheels] told us that they could handle anymore that we were to give them, so they are still taking referrals.”
Provided by the FFCRA Congregate Meals program, seniors age 60 and over are given the opportunity to gather and socialize with each other while being given nutritionally balanced meals. However, most of the activities have been suspended because of the
State of Emergency, Stay-at-Home Order and social distancing rules requiring people to keep 6 feet apart.
Typically, the Department of Aging’s contractor distributes the meals directly to its designated senior sites, and the facilities workers and volunteers decide how the meals will be distributed, but as a result of the current pandemic there will be limited occasions where meals are served in group settings.
When the restrictions are loosened those clients will then be able to eat in group settings, officials said. Until then the program will use the additional $98,589 funds to serve newly enrolled Home-Delivered Meals clients.
Taking effect from the date of enactment, the grant period will be from April 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021.