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Meals on Wheels, the program that delivers food to people who are homebound, has become the poster child for President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts.
Whether those cuts would shutter local chapters and leave seniors stranded is a hotly debated topic.
WHAT WE FOUND
To find the answer here in Colorado we called local Meals on Wheels chapters, and we talked to the national Meal on Wheels spokesperson, Jenny Bertolette.
Each Meals on Wheels chapter gets its money from a unique blend of funds that come from individual donations, charities, as well as federal, state and local governments.
Some chapters don’t get any money from the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBGP) Trump proposed eliminating in his budget. Others lean on the federal program, which gives about $3 billion each year to local charities that work to combat poverty.
About six percent of Meals on Wheels South Metro Denver’s budget comes from a CDBGP grant that Centennial gives them each year.
“It won’t be devastating, but it’s an impact,” Executive Director Diane McClymonds said. “I don’t know where I am going to go to raise another six percent. It’s not nothing.”
Six percent translates into $34,000 for the chapter, which serves about 400 people a day.
The south metro chapter also received a one-time grant of $25,000 through the CDBGP last year to buy new kitchen equipment, McClymonds said.
Mountain Meals on Wheels, which serves Summit County, doesn’t get any money from the block grant program.
It does, however, get about 10 percent of its funding directly from the national chapter, Rob Rumrill said.
Rumrill is the program manager for the Summit County Community and Senior Center, which manages the Meals on Wheels program.
“It’s definitely substantial,” Rumrill said. “It helps a lot.”
Whether Rumrill’s funding from the national program would be cut remains up in the air.
Trump’s proposed a $12.6 billion cut to the Department of Health and Human Services budget, but he didn’t tell the agency where to cut.
Meals on Wheels gets 35 percent of its budget from HHS through the Older Americans Act.
“There’s no line that says the program would be cut by this much,” Bertolette said. “If HHS gets a significant cut, it’s obviously going to trickle down to programs. We do know that any cut would hurt our program.”
A substantial cut could force the national chapter to scale back on the grants it gives to local chapters like Mountain Meals on Wheels.
In Colorado, nearly $7 million of the $14.8 million spent on Meals on Wheels each year comes from OAA funding.
It’s also important to point out that some of those cuts could be offset by the recent spike in donations.
Bertolette said the national organization usually gets $1,000 a day in unsolicited online donations. Since Thursday, it has received $170,000.
Eliminating the community development grants would hurt local Meals on Wheels chapters, but we couldn’t find one that would have to close its doors.
And a lot is still unknown.
We don’t know where HHS would cut if it loses 16 percent of its budget, and we don’t know what the final budget will look like once it gets through Congress.