Over the past few days, the story of President Donald Trump cutting funding for the Meals on Wheels program has spread, causing reactions from outrage to denial. While viral memes depict veterans and grandmothers who might be at risk of losing a program they depend on for sufficient nutrition, arguments rage over whether the budget proposed actually has any tangible effect on the program.
Representative Keith Ellison tweeted on Thursday, before the budget was publicly released, that it would include ‘elimination’ of Meals On Wheels.
$54 Billion more for military, slash diplomacy budget (why try to talk out a problem?) and elimination of Meals on Wheels. Let's Organize.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) March 16, 2017
The short-form statement, though, didn’t cover all the nuances of exactly how the budget will affect Meals on Wheels programs.
NBC Washington reported Friday that the budget did not specify funding for the Older Americans Act or Meals On Wheels, and cut funding to the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as fully eliminating Community Block Grants — two major sources of funding for Meals On Wheels. However, it was noted that state and local governments determine the exact distribution of the funds that are allocated, making it impossible to say exactly how much this affects each individual Meals on Wheels program.
This was quickly followed by backlash, as conservative sources asserted that only three percent of Meals on Wheels funding is provided by these Federal funds, and that this cut would cause negligible effects.
About Meals-on-Wheels losing funding: only ~3% of their budget is from Feds. Once illegals are gone & stop abusing it, that 3% won't matter.
— /pol/ News Network (@polNewsNetwork1) March 17, 2017
However, Meals On Wheels America has released a statement this weekend, responding to these claims, denying that only three percent of the cost of delivering meals to senior citizens is affected by this Federal budget, and clarifying how this claim is mistaken.
“In response to confusion around federal funding received by Meals on Wheels:
“Meals on Wheels services are provided directly to seniors by a nationwide network of 5,000 local community-run programs that, in the aggregate, receive 35% of their funding from the federal government.
“Some media outlets have incorrectly reported this number to be 3%, confusing it with the federal funding received by Meals on Wheels America, the national membership organization that does not provide direct services (e.g., meals). This miscommunication dramatically understates the significant impact of any federal budget cuts that may affect Meals on Wheels.”
Meals On Wheels America is not the program that delivers meals to senior citizens in need. It is, instead, an organization that helps those programs with organization. It receives about three percent of its funding from the Federal government.
Individual Meals On Wheels programs, however, are operated at local levels. These are the individual programs that work to feed seniors, and they depend to a much greater degree on government funding.
These local programs, Meals On Wheels America says, depend on Federal funding for about 35 percent of their costs, collectively.
While the budget cuts President Trump has outlined still do not dictate a specific amount of funding removed directly from Meals on Wheels programs, the cuts to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mean that department will have to, in turn, determine what programs under it receive less funding, and Meals on Wheels is one of the programs, under the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, that could be at risk.
Individual Meals on Wheels programs have been responding to concerns from the citizens they serve, releasing statements about the possible results of this budget.
Meals on Wheels of Durham, North Carolina, for instance, has urged those concerned to contact local representatives and noted that details have not been released, but warned that cuts to the program are likely.
“With a stated 17.9% cut to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget, however, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which these critical services would not be significantly and negatively impacted if enacted into law.”
The Meals on Wheels program in San Fransisco released a similar statement, asking supporters to help by pushing back against the passing of this budget, and calling for representatives to ensure that programs that feed and perform safety checks for senior citizens are funded.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]