Our Voice: Thumbs up to CREHST's extended hours; thumbs down to Congress for cuts to Meals on Wheels

September 28, 2013 

Living history

Thumbs up to the Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science and Technology Museum in Richland for its decision to remain open six days a week.

Its days of operation were trimmed to five a week -- Tuesday through Saturday -- earlier this year as the museum, known as CREHST, transitions toward closure.

But after tracking the numbers, the decision was made to add back Sunday hours. Tour boats having been coming into Richland on weekends, and the additional hours will allow the museum to attract those visitors.

CREHST tells the story of the Manhattan Project and the Hanford nuclear reservation. Eventually, the museum will become part of the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center.

But in the meantime, Hanford's history remains an important story to relate to visitors and local residents. The decision to add Sunday hours will help ensure that work continues.

Hunger games

Thumbs down to Congress for relying on sequestration to reduce the federal budget instead of doing the job we elected them to do and set spending priorities.

As a result, Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels may need to cut one day of service a month next year to address a $43,000 cut in federal funds.

The meals program has an annual budget of about $1 million, with about 40 percent from state and federal money funneled through Southeast Washington Aging and Long Term Care.

The agency lost about $200,000 this year because of automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration, but was able to dip into reserves to avoid passing on hefty cuts to groups such as Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels.

But it's poised to lose another $200,000 in 2014 if federal lawmakers don't prioritize funding for Older Americans Act programs, and there won't be any reserves to make up the difference.

No one is going to starve to death from missing one meal a month, and in some cases clients will receive a frozen dinner ahead of time.

But Meals on Wheels provides many seniors in the Mid-Columbia with their only daily meal. The program served more than 147,000 meals to the elderly and homebound in Benton and Franklin counties last year.

Any reduction in that service ought to be a deliberate, not automatic.

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