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Semcac Programming Cuts Due to Loss of Federal Dollars

Updated: 12/27/2013 10:49 PM
Created: 12/27/2013 10:48 PM KAALtv.com
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- Cuts in federal funding have forced Semcac to make cut backs in more areas than one. Some three dozen of Minnesota's 502 congregate dining facilities for seniors, including four in southern Minnesota, are closing next week. They’re the victim of federal budget cuts.

"They're funny and we just have a good time, it’s a really fun job," said Laurie Peaslee. She's the manager of the senior dining site in Lewiston. One of the 4 that will now be shut down starting January first.

"We've closed Lewiston, we’ve closed Houston, we've closed Morris town…” said Executive Director of Semcac, Wayne Stenberg. The Wanamingo location is also on that list. Stenberg says it's the first time in 40 years they've had to cut programs. A decision, he says, was out of their hands. "About 65% of our income was federal and we're down to about 51% of that, so that’s dropped dramatically. A lot comes on the back side of the sequestration," said Stenberg.

"There's nothing we can do so," said Laurie. She says the seniors she works with are very disappointed. "It's not so much the meal, it’s more of the being able to talk with each other and have some company,” she said.

"We're hoping we can provide ‘meals on wheels’ to those individuals, but the congregate site won’t have managers anymore. They won’t be eating as a group anymore," said Stenberg.

As he mentioned, employees will face the brunt of this too. Though Laurie's been switched to a new position, others may lose their job all together. "They are still keeping me on board and I’m still going to have a job," she sighed.

Even a couple dozen employees working directly for Semcac have been cut. "We employ about 235 individuals and we’re down to 210, so those individuals are looking for work as well," said Stenberg.

Stenberg tell us they've also lost funding for "Head Start" and have cut back on bussing. He says they will continue to fundraise and look for grants, as 35% of their funding comes from the public.