On Thursday, President Donald Trump unveiled his first “budget blueprint” — a rough outline of the national budget he plans to submit to Congress later this year — and the steep cuts to domestic programs could have a profound impact on local agencies.
The blueprint includes steep cuts in non-military spending, including the elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs, which currently help fund programs like Meals on Wheels, which delivers home meals to senior citizens.
Locally, Meals on Wheels delivers almost 130,000 meals to nearly 500 senior citizens throughout the year, according to the Council on Aging of West Florida, which administers the program in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Many of those seniors are homebound and can’t care for themselves like they once could, officials said. Meals on Wheels provides seniors with much-needed nutrition, sustenance, and companionship, and offers an opportunity for social service agencies to check in with clients.
“Meals on Wheels is a program that serves a vital need for homebound, disabled and vulnerable aging adults,” said John Clark, President and CEO of Council on Aging. “The program is largely comprised of volunteers who donate their time and transportation to alleviating hunger in our senior community. This is not a government agency bloated with bureaucracy whose cuts would benefit the taxpayer; Meals on Wheels is fully dedicated to the client and in fact helps Americans avoid the far greater cost of caring for these individuals in a nursing home or retirement community.”
There are nearly 500 elderly people on Meals on Wheels waiting lists in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, Clark said. Nationwide, funding hasn’t kept up with demand — Meals on Wheels is now serving 23 million fewer meals now than in 2005, with waiting lists are mounting in every state.
Millions of seniors who rely on the program every day will be left behind if Trump’s proposed cuts go into effect, officials said.
“The problem with a skinny budget is it is lean on details,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “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.”
In a press conference Thursday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said that Meals on Wheels “sounds great” but counted it among programs that “don’t work” and “just aren’t showing any results.”