Program for seniors cut due to state budget impasse

NAUGATUCK, Conn (WTNH) — Betty McCabe isn’t just disappointed…

“Angry is a better term,” she said.

According to the State Department of Agriculture, Betty is one of 35,000 seniors who depends on the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) to buy her food. It gives vouchers to help low-income seniors buy low-cost, healthy produce from local farmers at farmers’ markets.

The vouchers are usually distributed at senior centers or at other organizations that cater to seniors. Betty goes to the Naugatuck Senior Center.

The director there says he has $14,000 worth of vouchers packed away, but now they’re…

“Worthless,” said Harvey Leon Frydman, Director of the Naugatuck Senior Center.

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Harvey says he was surprised by an email from the State Department of Agriculture that he received Friday afternoon. It was sent to agencies that distribute state-funded vouchers. It reads:

Due to the lack of a state budget being enacted by the General Assembly by July 1, 2017, funding for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program has been effectively eliminated.”

That hurts people like Betty.

“It means that I have to cut back by about half,” Betty said.

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It also hurts local farmers. Mike Marcucio, who set up a table full of homegrown vegetables at the Naugatuck Farmers’ Market, says most of his customers use the vouchers to purchase his produce. And with the program now cut, he’s anticipating a big cut to his profits.

“That cuts into it 60 percent,” he said.

In fact, now, Marcucio and other farmers won’t even accept any voucher funded by the state. Those funded by the federal government are still good.

But, as far as Betty is concerned, when it comes to state lawmakers, she and her friends at the Naugatuck Senior Center say this whole situation could lead to sour grapes in November.

“They better not show up here next election time sucking up for our votes,” she said.

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