Sequestration has ripple effects in Brunswick

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BRUNSWICK — It would have literally taken an act of Congress to keep the Great State of Maine Air Show alive.

The show that was scheduled to enter its third year as a civilian-run program in September was canceled last week by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority because of across-the-board federal spending cuts that will prevent popular military flyers like the Blue Angels from performing.

It’s not the only local program to feel the impact of sequestration.

Starting this week, a local Meals on Wheels program is facing cuts that could adversely impact the health of local seniors, according to Dave Brown, director of Spectrum Generation’s Topsham Center.

“I think there’s no question,” Brown said on Tuesday.

The Topsham center serves all of Sagadahoc County, plus Brunswick and Harpswell. According to Gerard Queally, Spectrum Generations president and CEO, sequestration will reduce staff for aging and disabilities resource counseling, and impact about 2,200 people.

The across-the-board federal spending cuts that began in March have reduced the funding Spectrum Generations receives through the Older Americans Act and other sources by almost $173,000.

Brown said the cuts that began this week will reduce from two to one the number of days volunteers deliver meals to their patrons. He said while seniors will still receive five meals a week, only one of them will be hot.

But more importantly, Brown said, the reduction of delivery service will take away critical check-in time that Meals on Wheels volunteers have with their patrons. 

“There’s a social aspect being lost: someone showing up at home and making sure everything is OK,” he said.

Brown said part of the Meals on Wheels program’s purpose is to keep seniors independent and in their homes. He said this actually helps drive down health costs because it prevents some people from having to be moved into retirement or assisted living communities.

“The big thing for us is emphasizing that it’s not an expense, because in the end it’s keeping people in their houses,” Brown said.

In addition to the Meals on Wheels cuts, Brown said sequestration has forced the cancellation of a twice-weekly dining event for local seniors.

“It was 2-3 hours where people were really engaged,” Brown said. “It also served the nutrition piece.” He said the gatherings were especially important to those who are isolated during most of the week.

At the MRRA, Executive Director Steve Levesque said the air show’s cancellation removes an economic building block. He said the show has been estimated to generate up to $4 million for the local economy in past years.

The cancellation of this year’s event also means MRRA will lose a major opportunity to showcase development at Brunswick Landing, where the air show is staged.

“It’s going to slow down the amount of properties we can lease or sell,” Levesque said. “It does hurt redevelopment.”

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.