Proposed Trump budget threatens Meals on Wheels - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Proposed Trump budget threatens Meals on Wheels

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/ AP) - Meals on Wheels, the popular service that provides food to the elderly, faces a sharp funding cut under President Donald Trump's budget proposal, drawing protests from congressional Republicans and Democrats.

The exact size of the cut is unknown, but White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the government "can't spend money on programs just because they sound good - and great."

News of possible federal cuts to San Diego County's Meals on Wheels program sent shock waves to workers. "A lot of them [seniors] will die without Meals on Wheels because food is health," said Oletha Wade Matthews, service specialist at San Diego's Meals on Wheels.

The White House budget director had a different view on the program.

"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," Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney's comments Thursday caused consternation at the Capitol and beyond as lawmakers from both parties vowed to protect the program, which serves nearly a million meals per day nationwide through a network of more than 5,000 local programs. More than 2.4 million older Americans are served each year, including more than 500,000 veterans.

Debbie Case, San Diego County's Meals on Wheel's CEO said "even a dollar cut is too much. We still have to deliver to more and more seniors. How do you do that?"

Case said her team is already stretched thin on a $5 million budget where 70-percent is fundraised.

"They [seniors] don't see anybody. If they are lucky they will see the mailman. A of of our seniors, their children live out of state, and they are trying to keep them independent - if they have children, if they have family. Some of them outlive everybody in their family," said Matthews.

Trump's budget proposal would cut hundreds of millions of dollars for the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as eliminate Community Development Block Grants provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Both agencies provide funding for Meals on Wheels, although its main source of funding is the Older Americans Act overseen by the Health and Human Services Department. Trump's budget cuts HHS spending by about 16.2 percent, but does not include a line item for the Older Americans Act or Meals on Wheels.

The budget also eliminates the $3 billion community block grant program, which some communities use to supplement Meals on Wheels and provide safety checks for the elderly. It was not clear how much of the block-grant funding goes to Meals on Wheels, since decisions are made by states and local governments.

"The problem with a 'skinny budget' is that it is lean on details," said Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, referring to a term commonly used on Capitol Hill to describe Trump's bare-bones budget document.

Still, "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," Hollander said in a statement.

Jenny Bertolette, a spokeswoman for Meals on Wheels, said the group gets about 35 percent of its funding through the Older Americans Act, with the rest provided by state and local governments and private donations. The act's 2016 budget was about $834 million, with nearly $849 million proposed for 2017.

If you would like help save Meals on Wheels, you are asked to contact your Congress representative - Meals on Wheels has made a sample letter on their website.

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