Mat-Su Senior Services Membership,
Effective Tuesday 02/21/2023, the Board of Directors of Mat-Su Senior Services (MSSS) has made the challenging decision to stop congregate meal service at the Palmer Senior Center. Home delivered meal service will continue as this service serves many homebound seniors who are most in need and remains our top priority. Additionally, the Senior Center will remain open for volunteer ran and supported events, social interaction and other activities such as the library, computer room, gift shop, exercise rooms, pool table, commodities distribution and information/referral services. We hope you will continue to visit and utilize your senior center.
The decision to close our in-person congregate meal program was not an easy choice. As your Board, we understand its value firsthand. Likewise, we enjoy seeing one another to catch-up, share stories and fellowship together. Staff leadership, including Tim Pettit, CEO, and Beth Westland, COO, are working tirelessly each day to manage day-to-day activities at the Center. We hope you will join the Board in giving them your full support as we navigate these challenging decisions together.
Like you, MSSS has faced unprecedented challenges in recent years. First, a global pandemic that virtually changed life, as we knew it, on a moment’s notice. As we slowly attempted to adjust to the pandemic, inflation began to soar to record levels not seen since the 1980s. We know you too have faced growing food costs, utility increases and of course, the pain associated with filling your vehicles at the pump, among other items. We were right along with you facing those exact same challenges, only on a much larger scale. The time has come we must be honest with you and ourselves and deal with those challenges directly. This is not easy, nor will it be painless.
Many are surprised to learn, Alaska has the fastest growing senior population per-capita of any state in the Union. A title Alaska earned in 2007 when we knocked off Nevada to take the lead. Today, that lead has only grown. What does that mean in terms of growth in Mat-Su? In 2010, the senior population (those 60 and older) in the Mat-Su Borough stood at 11,353. Today, the population of seniors 60 and over has grown 105% and now stands at 23,224. In 2010, seniors constituted about 13% of the Borough’s overall population. In 2022, one in five Borough residents is now 60 or older.
MSSS funds its meals programs, the focus of our correspondence with you today, through Title III of the Older American’s Act. Those Federal funds are available to all persons aged 60 and older, but are targeted to those in greatest economic or social need, particularly low-income and minority persons, older individuals with limited English proficiency and older persons residing in rural areas. Participants are encouraged to make voluntary contributions for services they receive. Short significant adjustments in FY20 and FY21 (Covid 19 response), national funding for all states has seen only modest increases since 2012. State funding compliments federal receipts, but has been flat for many years. Legislation is currently proposed to increase senior grant funding by nearly $1.5M statewide. While we applaud those efforts, it will take time. Mat-Su’s share of both Federal/State funding remains to be seen for future years, but is currently just below $650,000, which in turn is distributed between senior provider agencies in the area.
We trust the information provided helps explain the challenges we are facing and the financial picture before us. As we navigate these issues together, please know your Board and Staff are focused on working through these challenging times while continuing to do all we possibly can for seniors in the Greater Palmer area.
President, Mat-Su Senior Services