Recently, President Trump pitched his initial budgetary system to Congress. His budget entails heavily cutting back on US-based programs. Despite popular belief, he has no intention of eliminating Meals On Wheels.
The food-donation program stemmed from United Kingdom-based Women’s Volunteer Service in 1943 and popped up in Australia in 1953. The organization hit the US in 1974 and has been going strong ever since. The majority of delivery drivers are volunteers who donate their time toward feeding the American elderly.
[Video: courtesy of USA Today]
While a combination of funding goes to Meals On Wheels, federal money is not their direct source. Team Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said, “Meals on Wheels is not a federal program.”
Regardless of this clarification, many spun the organization as a martyr of Team Trump’s budget proposal. Prior to all this budgetary hoopla, Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) posted on Twitter that the president declared the “elimination” of Meals on Wheels. More, the Congressional Progressive Caucus jumped on the bandwagon with labeling the plan as the “Starvation Budget.”
Fact: President Trump’s budget plan entails dropping the Community Development block grant—it provides funding to the US’s 5,000 Meals On Wheels entities. During President Ford’s era, this $3-billion effort enabled state and local governments to better manage destitution.
However, Team Trump’s “skinny budget” is simply a draft of a finalized layout. More, the president’s plan doesn’t detail specifics including the primary conduit availing federal dollars for elderly care. “The budget will adversely impact older adults,” National Association of Area Agencies on Aging CEO Sandy Markwood said. “We just don’t know how much.”
While the degree of impact is unknown, the Department of Health & Human Services houses the Administration for Community Living, which looks after senior citizens and handicapped people. Within that agency’s documentation, there’s a $227-million line item entitled “home-delivered nutrition services.”
Such “services” are possible due to the Older Americans Act. Its popularity’s at the level of seeing no, Congressional debate in 2016. President Trump may not have pontificated on it, but there will be an overall 16-percent cut in funds to Health & Human Services.
“We’re very concerned. We’re concerned about the cuts that were explicit in the skinny budget, but we’re also concerned about what we see as the handwriting on the wall with the percentage cuts to HHS,” Markwood stressed. “Some of these details we won’t know for a while.”
Meals On Wheels itself was unable to answer an overwhelming amount of media inquiries.
The source-funding cut will probably avail an effect of varying degrees depending on location. All Meals On Wheels offices pool state, local and federal dollars together for their operations—in addition to donations and money from humanitarian entities.
“We like to say that when you’ve seen one Meals On Wheels program, you’ve seen one Meals On Wheels program,” Meals On Wheels of Northwest Indiana Executive Director Sandra Noe said. They ultimately rely on the Older Americans Act for funding.
As bad as President Trump’s plan for block-grant termination may seem, grant administrator Department of Housing & Urban Development was unable to disclose the exact amount of money that goes directly to Meals On Wheels—it’s not that much actually. The law dictates the block-grant maximum is 15 percent to social services. More, HUD numbers availed $33 million going toward senior services. But according to the US Census Bureau, there were 46.2-million elderly people in 2014—the number continues to rise.
“We’ve spent $150 billion on those programs since the 1970s,” Mulvaney said in terms of the block grants. Since G.W. Bush’s era, grant money was distributed in block amounts in order to give more spending freedom to state and local governments. However, said grants are “just not showing any results,” Mulvaney added. He continued to explain, “We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. And great, Meals On Wheels sounds great. Again, that’s a state decision to fund that particular portion—to take the federal money and give it to the states and say, ‘look, we want to give you money for programs that don’t work.’”
Scientific research dictates otherwise. It availed Meals On Wheels yields better nutrition for senior citizens. More, the program’s actually cheaper when compared to putting elderly folks in nursing homes.
“It’s not just a meal but a wellness check,” Noe said. “That voUSlunteer, that driver, is able to tune into whether that person’s health is failing, or if they’ve fallen or can’t get out of their chair. And we’re delivering relief from isolation, and we’re delivering relief to their family as well.”