Newton Kansan

Twila Kovac, director of the Newton Meals on Wheels program, is entering new territory after more than 20 years on the job.

"I have been doing this for 23 years, and I have never worried about how we would pay the bills," Kovac said. "Until now."

She's always needed volunteers — and needs some now. But aside from her first year when the program was operating at a loss when she took over, paying the bills has not been an issue. However — right now there is uncertainty in the face of a government shutdown and a funding cut.

There's an outstanding balance of about $6,200 in federal funds which is in limbo due to an ongoing government shutdown. But that, it would appear, is the least of the worries.

Monday the organization received notice of a funding cut — about $25,000 of state and federal funds from the 2014 budget.

"Part of this is from the sequester," Kovac said. "We were warned to expect a 30 percent cut, rather than the a five percent. And I think that's about what happened — a 30 percent cut."

The funds cut were funds designated for meal costs — a cost that increased .14 per meal, per day, this year. The program delivers meals to shut-ins every day of the week.

It's a double-whammy — reduced funds in an area where it will take more money to provide the same level of service.

"I don't know what we will do," Kovac said. "We still get funds from the United Way and some donations from those we serve."

Previous funding cuts have been easier to deal with — but they haven't equaled two to three months of meal costs.

In the past Kovac has looked at cutting office hours and starting waiting lists.

Monday, however, she and her office staff of one — Rene Lewis — were struggling to find answers. If the shutdown begins to affect the program's income, there are some limited cash reserves.

"Eventually it will be OK," Lewis said — at the same time wondering if that outstanding $6,200 would be paid.