An area seniors’ nutrition service program is set to receive nearly $1 million of federal and state dollars from Enid’s area agency on aging for projects over the next year.
Long-Term Care Authority of Enid Area Agency on Aging will allocate a combined $954,146 of funds intended for senior citizen services to Wheatheart Nutrition Project, the authority’s board of trustees approved Wednesday.
Next year, Wheatheart will receive $819,129 for its nutrition project and $61,905 more for its outreach project — a combined 94.48% of LTCA of Enid’s total funds it allocated for external Title III senior services to be provided under the federal Older Americans Act.
Adults over the age of 60 must be able to access these services specified by Title III such as nutrition, legal aid and transportation.
LTCA Executive Director Ruth Stubblefield said nutrition is seen as the greatest need for seniors, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic saw service providers closing their congregate dining areas for health safety concerns.
Meal programs for seniors, including Wheatheart’s, were instead directed to home delivery or carry-out services, Stubblefield said.
The Blackwell-based nonprofit serves hot meals to seniors five days a week in an eight-county area, and also provides deliveries to homebound people and nutrition counseling and education. Sixteen Northern Oklahoma meal sites are listed on its website.
Wheatheart also has received most of the agency’s latest round of COVID relief funds that initially began in April 2020, Stubblefield said.
“(Nutrition) was probably our highest priority over the 14 months that’s leading up to this discussion,” she later said Thursday.
LTCA staff earlier this year had allocated $73,112 in funds received from the COVID relief Consolidated Appropriations Act for Wheatheart to purchase only frozen and shelf-stable food, Stubblefield said Wednesday.
LCTA then has reimbursed the nonprofit for reported monthly expenses attributed to COVID.
Those funds are available through the fiscal year, but can be extended until Sept. 30, Stubblefield said.
“The sweet thing about this is, there was no match — that the project receiving it did not have to contribute any dollars to match this,” she said.
Stubblefield said each of those previous packages — the Major Disaster Declaration, Family First Act and the CARES Act — also included massive allocations for seniors’ nutrition services that went to Wheatheart.
Stubblefield said the agency expects more COVID relief funds from the American Rescue Act in the coming months.
Those funds likely will again be allocated to proposed nutrition, caregiver and health prevention services, she said.
“This has been the most blessed but also challenging year with all the additional funding streams we have been balancing,” she said.
Board members also approved deferring $16,330 in other CAA funds for administrative costs until the next fiscal year. LTCA will have to pay 25% in agency funding, or $5,443, to receive the funds, Stubbefield said.
She said staff learned of the allocation opportunity in February, but the board’s meeting that month had been canceled.
The LTCA’s board of trustees on Wednesday heard and approved the agency’s various funding updates and requests for the first time in nine months, having last met Sept. 16, 2020.
Each year, Oklahoma’s 10 area agencies on aging, including Enid’s, allocate the hundreds of thousands of Older Americans Act dollars to local programs, which apply to provide regular services including nutrition, legal aid, transportation, home repair, health prevention and aid, home repair compliance and caregiving.
The rest of next year’s non-caregiving funds, totaling $1,009,884, were allocated to local programs including Wheatheart, RSVP of Enid, three area rural transit systems, Rural Health Projects Inc. and Legal Aid of Oklahoma.
“It may seem like a small need to some people, but to a senior person that’s on a fixed, limited income, getting that step fixed is a big deal,” Stubblefield said.
No programs had submitted applications to Enid for this year’s allocated $107,953 for caregiving services, so AAA again submitted a direct service waiver that’d bring the funds in-house to the state’s Department of Human Services, she said.
The waiver, which the LCTA has submitted every year since 2013, is awaiting approval, Stubblefield said.