In today's economy, individuals are finding it difficult to make ends meet. In fact, many older adults in our communities lack the basic needs of life, including enough food. According to the Food Research and Action Center, 8 percent of the households with elderly members are food-insecure. Lack of basic nutrition negatively impacts health and increases the risk of illness.
Many older adults may be eligible for food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Formerly known as food stamps, this program can provide vital assistance by helping seniors buy the food that they need. However, many eligible older adults do not receive this assistance because they don't know about the program or find the application process daunting. Additionally, many are faced with transportation, mobility or technology issues and just do not apply. Lastly, many older adults may feel embarrassed that they need help.
A pilot program in several counties — including Hillsborough, Polk, Highlands, Hardee and Manatee — overcomes those barriers and allows the application to be completed by telephone, using a telephonic signature. If you or an older adult that you know needs assistance, call the state of Florida's Elder Helpline at 1-800-963-5337.
Maureen Kelly, president and CEO, West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging Inc., Tampa
The fact is, they are Christians
By the standards of academia and in practice, Mormons are Christians. The first clue is in the name: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The second is in the LDS practices of initiation, worship, ministry and good works in thought and deed. The third is their beliefs in the New Testament, Gospels, and the letters and missionary work of St. Paul.
St. Paul believed that Christianity was meant for all humanity, that love unites humanity, and that one is granted forgiveness of guilt and sin through belief in Christ.
Roberta Hosken, Clearwater
Record of success ignored
Why is the Department of Corrections closing the most successful women's prison in Florida? We don't know. This we do know: Officials have told so many falsehoods about moving the inmates to a new dorm at the Lowell Correctional Institution in Marion County that we have lost count. They have insisted these women will have better accommodations and it is just a matter of transplanting them from one location to another.
The truth is, last week 12 inmates from Hillsborough Correctional Institution were shipped to Lowell. One of our women had to wait until 10 p.m. to get a mattress and dirty sheets for her first night at Lowell.
Last weekend at Lowell an inmate cut up the face of another inmate and an officer was injured. As a result the whole place was locked down for two days.
There is only one education area, one medical area, one recreation area, one building with dining facilities, one laundry, one visitor area, etc.
How are inmates from HCI going to function without coming into contact with the drugs, fights and chaos that exist at Lowell? Unless they are locked in their dorms 24 hours, seven days a week, it will be impossible.
And do you think the hardened inmates at Lowell are not going to taunt the inmates from a "faith/character"-based institution? DOC is living in fantasy land to think they can re-create the environment of encouragement and hope that exists at HCI with over 500 volunteers, 75 classes and programs taught by volunteers.
The long-term cost of closing HCI far exceeds the short-term savings. Wake up, Gov. Rick Scott.
Janet Smith, volunteer, Sun City Center
U.S. embargo on Cuba: Half-century of failure Feb. 22, editorial
Contacts could change regime
As owner of a travel agency, I found it interesting that the 50-year anniversary of the Cuban embargo coincides with the announcement that Carnival is pulling the seven-night Legend from Tampa in summer 2013. Excitement and synergy with new Cuban ports might have avoided that job-losing redeployment and even brought more year-round ships into the Port of Tampa.
I wrote to Sen. Marco Rubio in January 2011 about opening travel to Cuba to create jobs in Florida. He replied that "the U.S. Department of State continues to list Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism" and "we cannot grant unilateral concessions to this tyrannical regime." I was amazed that in the two paragraphs where he discussed the actual policy, he did not even mention Florida.
When our escorted tour companies announced Cuban tours under President Barack Obama's executive order to relax "people to people" exchanges (a policy Rubio was adamantly against), they sold out in one day. While I understand that Cuba still has political, economic and human rights problems, so do many of the world's tourism destinations.
If U.S. tourists were able to interact daily with the people of Cuba, it would do more to change the regime than the failed 50-year embargo and create many jobs in Tampa Bay.
John Rice, Tampa
Things weren't bad in '55 | Feb. 22, letter
Running the numbers
This letter notes that the national debt was less than $275 billion and the budget deficit was less than $3 billion, compared to $15-plus trillion and $1.3 trillion today.
I would add that in 1955 the top tax bracket was 91 percent, whereas today's top tax bracket is only 35 percent; and in today's dollars, that 1955 national debt would be more than $2.3 trillion when adjusted for inflation.
Bob Lasher, Clearwater
Private sector to get wetlands funds? | Feb. 19
Private wetlands restoration
Craig Pittman, the author of this article and a book critical of mitigation, continues his jihad against anyone but the government daring to restore mitigation wetlands. This time he attacks private banks with a hodgepodge of criticisms that are more appropriately directed at the mitigation provided by water management districts, a practice now proposed to be phased out.
The article recalls a 2006 series of articles, referring to their findings as follows: "Some mitigation banks got more than half their wetland credits for land that was actually dry. Some received credits for simply preserving wetlands, even though that fails to balance out the loss of wetlands elsewhere."
Anyone with elementary understanding of mitigation in Florida is aware that the water management districts have mitigated for years in the same manner. In fact, later Pittman quotes an environmentalist saying that mitigation funding helps the districts purchase "environmentally sensitive lands." To the initiated, that means simply preserving wetlands as mitigation — precisely what Pittman skewers the private banks for doing.
The truth is that water management districts have siphoned away mitigation dollars for years in a largely unregulated fashion based on their cozy relations with other government agencies. Private mitigation banks would be fools to hold themselves to higher standards than the government itself.
The solution is for the government to regulate and the private sector to mitigate. Florida is partially there with the new legislation.
George A. Howard, president, Restoration Systems, Raleigh, N.C.