ICYMI: Los Angeles Times: "Gov. Gavin Newsom's promise to feed California seniors falling short so far"

Friday, May 22, 2020

By Taryn Luna – Staff Writer
MAY 22, 2020

When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the start of an initiative last month to deliver free meals to California seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, he declared that “the universe of those eligible is certainly in the millions.” …

But nearly a month later, the Great Plates Delivered program has served only 16,377 seniors. Local leaders say delayed information from the state, the duplication of existing services to provide meals to seniors and questions about the government reimbursement have hampered the ability to quickly ramp up the program.  …

…  Newsom initially said the goal of the program was to provide generous government reimbursements — up to $66 per day for three daily meals — to restaurants that prepare the food, employ workers in the industry and allow California’s most vulnerable residents to receive healthy meals in the safety of their homes. 

As of Wednesday, 168,163 meals had been delivered from 249 restaurants, according to Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The state’s COVID-19 website lists nearly 50 participating cities and counties.  …

“There was some bureaucratic mumbo jumbo going on for a little while and we just kind of watched that happen before we connected the dots with the county,” [Riverside Mayor Rusty] Bailey said of the lack of clarity about the details of the program.

When the governor announced the program in April, he described it as a replica of Meals on Wheels but at a “huge scale.” By contrast, Meals on Wheels serves about 18 million meals a year in the state ….

… CalFresh recipients, for example, cannot participate in Great Plates, but many are afraid to visit the grocery store during the pandemic to use their existing benefits.

…   federal rules ban the state from providing Great Plates meals to residents who receive benefits through any federally funded food assistance programs. …

Beyond the Great Plates program …. Meals on Wheels is concerned about seniors in the months ahead. The governor’s proposed budget cuts $8.5 million to senior nutrition programs.

“The biggest problem for us is what happens after COVID-19,” he said.

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