Last-minute budget winners, losers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Over the 14 hours of debate over next year's budget, City Council passed dozens of amendments from the floor, adding funding back to programs cut by the Finance Committee.

Programs funded included millions for indigent health at UF Health, money for the Jacksonville Journey and Children's Commission, funding to keep public libraries open on Saturday, to keep the Mayport Ferry running, to support the Bob Hayes Track Meet and keep the city's swimming pools open.

But two very popular programs were on the losing end of last-minute votes: Meals on Wheels and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

Meals on Wheels will receive only 10 percent of what it used to, and Legal Aid lost funding for its landlord-tenant dispute program.

Meals on Wheels, run by the nonprofit Aging True, provides fresh food for about 900 people in Jacksonville every day.  But after the council voted 8-10 on a motion to restore $200,000 in funding, the number the group is able to serve is sure to drop dramatically.

"Many people will be at risk of going hungry," said Turea Robinson of Aging True. "They may end up in a nursing home. Many of these individuals live alone, they depend greatly on this one hot meal a day."

Just shy of 90 years young, Aletha Banks relies on Meals on Wheels to bring her a nutritious lunch each day.

"It means a whole lot, a whole lot to me," Banks said Thursday. "My husband passed away, so I'm here trying to make it by myself."

Over at Legal Aid,  Executive Director Jim Kowalski says without the $270,000 in funding from the city, the program that helps lower income people stay in their apartments and away from homelessness may end.

He said they helped about 200 people in crisis every year.

"One gentleman was late for his public health voucher meeting because he was at Shands with a collapsed lung. He got an eviction notice. We stopped that," Kowalski said.

JALA is not sure if or how this program can continue.

Meals On Wheels has scheduled a golf tournament for Oct. 8 at Hidden Hills Country Club to benefit the program. Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee is the celebrity host for the event.  For more information, visit AgingTrue.org/events.html.