FARMINGTON — Thousands of New Mexico seniors rely on free meals from senior centers and home delivery programs, but recent budget problems at the state and federal level have left those services in jeopardy.

Tim Armer, the executive director of North Central New Mexico Economic Development Department, which oversees the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging, said his agency is facing a $7 million loss of federal funding, which makes up 36 percent of its budget.

The Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging serves as an objective third party that reimburses entities like Northwest New Mexico Seniors Inc. for services. Cathy Daddow, executive director of Northwest New Mexico Seniors, said the nonprofit organization lost $46,300 in federal funding for April, May and June this year. She encouraged local residents who want to help to contact legislators at both the state and national level and ask them not to cut senior services funding.

Armer said the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging received notice that it should not expect more federal money this fiscal year. The agency has also been told to budget as if it will not receive federal funding next fiscal year.

That could have a substantial impact, particularly on the small service providers, Armer said, noting that some of them are considering closing several days of the week.

"That's rather frightening to all of us," he said.

Compounding the struggles with federal funding, Daddow said Northwest New Mexico Seniors has not received its state reimbursement for March. The Farmington-based nonprofit group supplies meals to five senior centers in Farmington, Bloomfield, Aztec and San Juan County outside of the Navajo Nation. Daddow said the organization is two months behind in paying its food providers and has not been able to pay employees because it has not been reimbursed.

Armer said Northwest New Mexico Seniors is one of many organizations statewide that are struggling with that problem. He said the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging submitted its March reimbursement requests on April 14 to the state department of aging and long term services. Typically, the Non-Metro Agency on Aging then distributes those funds to entities it contracts with, including Northwest New Mexico Seniors. The state department of aging and long term services reviews the report and submits it to the state department of finance administration.

Armer received an email today from the department of finance administration informing him the department had just received the request for reimbursement. Because of that, Armer said the earliest Northwest New Mexico Seniors will receive its reimbursement is next week.

If it does not receive the funds, Daddow said the nonprofit may have to close its doors. While she does not know how likely that is, she said, "Right now, my hair's turning gray just worrying about this."

"I really feel that it is going to be straightened out," Daddow said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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