If President Donald Trump’s budget proposal goes through as presented, serious cuts to federal funding could hit the Webster Parish Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program for $34,000 a year.
Executive Director Patsy Dees said if the cuts go through, it could cut the COA’s Meals on Wheels program, which means 77 senior citizens will not get home-delivered meals.
“It’s going to hurt the Webster Council on Aging, because these seniors get home delivered meals five days per week,” she said. “They’re going to be the ones that will be losing. They’re not going get those meals if we don’t get the home-delivered meals money.”
Dees said the federal money comes to the state through the Community Services Block Grant, administered through the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Community Development Block Grant, administered through Housing and Urban Development. Nationally, 2.4 million home-delivered meals would be cut, Trump’s budget proposal shows.
“That is 2.4 million people who receive home-delivered meals,” she said. “We serve 15,560 meals a year. That’s just home-delivered meals. That’s not counting congregate meals. We’re providing 99 meals per day in that.”
Webster COA gets about $67,311 from the state and $34,334 from the federal government annually. For the last several years, the Webster Parish Police Jury has added in another $25,000, but COA took a 25 percent cut from them this year, totaling about $18,750. Dees said they collect a total of about $100,000 from all of those sources to keep the program running.
Emergency meals would be affected as well.
“We couldn’t order any emergency meals to give to anyone,” she said. “The emergency meal money comes out of that up front. Last year, when we had the flooding in March, the Office of Elderly Affairs was able to do a grant with Federal Emergency Management Agency money and they reimbursed us $1,200. That $1,200 got our seniors a three-meal sack of shelf stable meal items.”
Dees said they would have to depend on state money to fund the Meals on Wheels program. Trump administration officials are saying they are turning those programs over to the state, because the state makes those decisions anyway. White House officials say the programs don’t work.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Meals on Wheels is not a federal program; it’s a part of the CDBG, the block grants given to the states by the federal government. He claims the programs just aren’t showing any results.
“We can’t do that anymore,” he said during a press conference Thursday. “We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. And Meals on Wheels sounds great — again, that’s a state decision to fund that particular portion to. But 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 — I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. We’re $20 trillion in debt. We’re going to spend money, we’re going to spend a lot of money, but we’re not going to spend it on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people.”
“He doesn’t understand,” Dees said of Trump. “They don’t have to worry about our people who are federal poverty income folks that are just barely getting $750 per month. Those people are the ones who are going to be hurt. If he whittles on the home-delivered meals, I’m looking for him to hit the congregate meals next. It’s sad, because we’re feeding people.”