BRAAA Continues To Serve Community Despite Obstacles
By Gordon Hopkins
Like much of the country, the Blue Rivers Area Agency on Aging (BRAAA) has been struggling this year from continuing supply chain disruption and a shortage of workers, which have hampered efforts to return to normal operations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Jefferson County Commissioner Mark Schoenrock serves on the BRAAA Board and attended a meeting on November 16 and gave a report to the other commissioners, “You know, as an example, all the food that we buy for our senior centers, for our seniors to come in and have lunch, one of our bigger ones is right here in Fairbury, we are having challenges keeping those prices, keeping the menus that we want to keep, just getting the meal prep done, finding people to do the work, finding the food, finding the supplies.”
It is unknown how long these disruptions are to continue. A statement issued by the White House in July explained, “Entire industries that shrank dramatically during the pandemic, such as the hotel and restaurant sectors, are now trying to reopen.”
It is now November and the supply chain disruptions continue, resulting in delays in obtaining needed products and materials as well as an increase in costs of those items that are available.
Inflation has further exacerbated the problem. Increased fuel costs have hit a number of industries and endeavors. Schoenrock said, “All of our transportation services, you know, that we provide to senior citizens and disabled. Now we’re paying, like everybody else, we’re paying $3.20 a gallon for gas.”
“And so the focus of our board discussion yesterday, after all of our routine reports, was how we can still continue to best provide those services to all of our served population. So there’s some things that our staff is looking into,” Schoenrock said. “But the fact of the matter is, you know, we live on a fixed budget like everybody else. With all this stuff going up in cost, we’re not getting increased funding.”
While BRAAA does receive some money from the county and the state, such as the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, as well as a small amount of private contributions, the primary source of funding is federal grants.
Schoenrock acknowledged that some cost-cutting may be necessary but hopes that will not include cutting services, “We’re going to do our best to continue to provide those services as best we can and, hopefully, not have too much degradation.”
Vicki Christ with BRAAA also attended the meeting. She said, “We’re all facing these challenges. Nobody has any answers. We don’t know how much more things are going to increase before it plateaus out. It’s a day by day thing. I don’t have any answers.”