President Trump’s proposed budget seeks to shut down some of the federal funding behind the Meals on Wheels program. Mick Mulvaney, US budget director, claims that this particular budget cut would be “compassionate” to taxpayers.
Thursday, the budget blueprint was unveiled by the White House. Experts say it calls for the slash of funds backing the “$3 billion Community Development Block Grant program.” This program assists with the funding of the extremely popular senior citizen meal-delivery service.
Mulvaney told the crowd in a daily briefing:
“We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. And Meals on Wheels sounds great.”
“But 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 — I can’t defend that anymore.”
What Does Meals on Wheels Do?
This meal delivery program provides healthy meals to homebound seniors. The meals are delivered by volunteers and staffer. They typically make meal deliveries to community centers, senior facilities and homes, also providing “safety checks” and “friendly visits” to seniors. So, is it a good or bad idea to let this program go?
“We’re going to spend a lot of money, but we’re not going to spend it on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people,” he added.
Meals on Wheels does sound great — delicious, in fact. So what exactly is it, and what kinds of supposed promises isn’t it delivering? Let’s take a look.
Who does it help?
Meals on Wheels estimates its programs currently aid 2.4 million people across the country, including 500,000 veterans nationally per year. Recipients are typically aged 60 and up.
Where does its money come from?
Some communities use money from CDBG — the program Mulvaney proposes eliminating — to fund Meals on Wheels. The organization also gets help from private donations and state and local governments, it says.
But 35% of the network’s funding comes from the 1965 Older Americans Act, carried out by the Department of Health and Human Services — whose budget Trump wants to cut by almost 18%.
Meals on Wheels says funding limitations have already decreased the number of meals it serves by 23 million since 2005.
What kind of results do seniors see?
Beyond nourishment, a Meals on Wheels-commissioned study from Brown University in 2015 found psychological and health benefits to seniors. And, not for nothing, seniors receiving daily-delivered meals reported feeling less lonely, according to a November study in the Journals of Gerontology.
It’s money-savvy, too: As the group points out, less-fragile elderly people means fewer falls — which, according to the CDC, wound up costing Medicare more than $31 billion in 2015. The service also helps keep more seniors living at home and reduce nursing homes’ Medicaid costs, 2013 research from Brown found.
So what did Meals on Wheels say to these proposed cuts?
“The problem with a skinny budget is it is lean on details,” President and CEO Ellie Hollander said in a statement.
“So, while we don’t know the exact impact yet, cuts of any kind to these highly successful and leveraged programs would be a devastating blow to our ability to provide much-needed care for millions of vulnerable seniors in America, which in turn saves billions of dollars in reduced healthcare expenses.”