Agencies hope to keep meals rolling

As President Donald Trump’s budget proposal includes funding cuts to Meals on Wheels, a popular service that provides food to the elderly, local agencies that help area residents receive meals are watching to see what happens.

Rebecca Edwards, CEO of Trumbull Mobile Meals, said while her agency is independent and a member of Meals on Wheels of America, it does not receive direct funding from the national organization.

”We have applied for grants through Meals on Wheels in the past but this year, we are not because they have cut back on their grants. We are not a government agency which is the difference,” Edwards said.

She said while the cuts to Meals on Wheels will not directly affect the local agency, it would be affected by any proposed cuts to community development block grants that do provide it with some funding.

Edwards said the local agency gets its funding through donations, subscribers, and grants. The agency also benefits from Mature Services funds.

”We would be affected if they cut funds for Mature Services or community development block grants. We utilize funds from Mature Services to help us with our day- to- day operations,” Edwards said.

Dick Lytle, a Trumbull Mobile Meals board member said ”It is upsetting when you hear of cuts since there are a lot of people who need our services and others. If we don’t have the funds we are going to have to cut back on services.”

Lisa Solley, director of communications for Area Agency on Aging 11, said her agency receives money through the Older Americans Act to provide home-delivered meals to residents in Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties.

She said the agency works with the Office of Elderly Affairs which gets meals to residents at senior centers and their homes.

”This would be very sad,” Solley said of any funding cuts which would affect meals for senior citizens and others.

Solley noted community development block grants are also provided through Older Americans Act.

”For many of these people getting the meal is the only time they have contact with someone or have someone checking on them,” she said.

The exact size of the cut to Meals on Wheels 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.”

Both political 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.

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 Department of Health and Human Services. Trump’s budget would cut HHS spending by about 16.2 percent, but does not include a line item for the Older Americans Act or Meals on Wheels.

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.