When Senator Bernie Sanders arrived punctually at noon at the Randolph Senior Center on Hale Street last Friday, he was greeted by a round of applause—and that was before he had said anything. Sanders was in Randolph to announce funding totaling $58,920 obtained through the department of Housing and Urban Development for six projects in area towns.
The local grants were part of $487,000 in federal funding he secured for equipment and renovations at 34 senior centers across Vermont, his office said.
The Randolph Senior Center itself will receive $18,675, which the center’s director, Emilie Daniel, said would be used to construct covered walkways into the building, and to repair the leaky porch roof.
Kimball Public Library’s director, Amy Grasmick, was on hand to note that the $12,900 that the library gets will be used for exterior maintenance on the building.
The Pierce Hall Community Center in Rochester will get $18,675, and Executive Director Valerie Levitan said the money would go towards purchase of a new furnace boiler so the hall could be used in the winter. There are plans to have a senior center there in the future, but that is about two years away.
Susan Pirie, director of the senior centers in Chelsea and Royalton and the South Strafford meal site, was happy to announce that the money they would receive (($1600 for Chelsea and $2400 for Royalton and South Strafford to share) will be used for kitchen equipment.
In addition, Sanders announced that the Orange-East Senior Center in Bradford would receive $4,670 to purchase a new-six-burner Garland stove. Director Vicky Chaffee was not able to attend the presentation.
Acknowledging the applause that greeted his announcements, Sanders said, “This is not Senator Sanders’ money—this is your money. It’s taxpayer dollars being spent in a useful way. Virtually all senior centers have needs, and programs like these are invaluable.”
Susan Russell, director of community services for the Central Vermont Council on Aging, pointed out that “We provide $3.44 per meal to each senior center, but the actual cost to provide the meal is between $6-$9. The centers ask for a suggested donation, but many people can’t always pay that. These grants will be a big help.”
“Vermont senior centers, and the thousands of volunteers who work with them, do an extraordinary job in bringing seniors together—making sure they get good nutrition, health care and social activities,” Sanders declared.
Sanders noted that he had also been working on securing funding for a community health center program that would put federal dollars into locally-run health centers.’
“We now have 41 locations around the state, with two more expected to open soon,” he said. “These centers will be open to anyone, and will serve those with Medicare, insurance, or those with no insurance, who can get care on a sliding scale, and will offer low-cost prescription drugs, and dental services, too.”
Sanders also spent time answering questions from a number of the seniors present. Two of the topics he discussed were how they could get help with weatherizing their homes to make them more energy efficient, and what was really happening with Social Security.
“Social Security is not going bankrupt,” he declared. “It has enough money right now to pay out 100% of its benefits until 2037. At that point, if Congress does nothing, it could still pay 78% of its benefits.”
Urging his listeners to “pay attention to the debate,” Sanders added, “We can save Social Security without raising the retirement age or cutting benefits. I believe we should raise the cap so the wealthiest folks pay a higher percentage.”
Seniors who need assistance with federal government programs such as Social Security, Veterans Administration, IRS, etc.and referrals for help with other matters, may call Senator Sanders’ office toll–free at 1-800-339-9834.