Senior citizens in one suburb could see Meals on Wheels deliveries cut in half if President Donald Trump’s budget cuts become reality, a spokeswoman for the network told CNN, as it anticipated “deep cuts” to a nonprofit that serves 2.4 million Americans.
Donations surged to 50 times their daily rate Thursday, the spokeswoman said, after the White House proposed eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program.
While the block grants fund only a small portion of Meals on Wheels’ operations nationwide, spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette told CNN that some of the group’s 5,000 local branches rely on the money to bring food to people.
A Meals on Wheels branch outside Detroit, she said, would lose one-third of its budget without the grants. The branch in San Jose, California, would lose $100,000.
And the organization has speculated that Trump’s vague budget outline could also slash the Older Americans Act, which it says funds more than one-third of its operations across the United States.
“Federal funding is at risk,” reads a banner ad that greets visitors to the nonprofit group’s website. “Help us defend these vital services today.”
The actual effect of next year’s budget on the program is unclear — in part because Trump’s budget plan is thin on details.
The proposed elimination of the $3 billion block grant program would mostly affect housing programs — not food services.
But the White House also proposes cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees a more than $800 million annual program that props up Meals on Wheels operations nationwide.
The budget outline doesn’t say what would happen to Older Americans Act funding, leaving Meals on Wheels officials to worry and wonder.
Trump’s proposals are still just that. Congressional members from both parties, who will ultimately decide the 2018 budget, have promised to protect the program.
The White House was “literally taking food away from seniors,” said Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-California, according to the Associated Press.
Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, R-Florida, said he ran Meals on Wheels deliveries himself.
But defending its proposals, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the government “can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good — and great.”
Outside Washington, people across the country have been offering help to Meals on Wheels since the Trump budget outline was released, program executives told CNN.
Local branches from Minneapolis to West Los Angeles saw surges of donations and other support. Volunteer sign-ups increased fivefold, a spokeswoman said.
“It’s reassuring that the public has stepped up,” the group’s executive director told CNN.