The preliminary outline for President Trump’s 2018 budget includes the complete elimination of federal funding for Meals on Wheels programs, which delivers nearly a million meals a day to the elderly, poor, veterans, disabled and other Americans who often can’t leave their own homes
Under Trump’s proposed budget, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would see a $6.2 billion cut in funding. Half of the proposed savings will come from eliminating the entire $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds several community development and anti-poverty programs, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Meals on Wheels spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette told CNN, “It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which they will not be significantly and negatively impacted if the President’s budget were enacted.”
“Programs across the country are already serving 23 million fewer meals than they did in 2005, and waiting lists to join Meals on Wheels are growing,” she added.
CBS News recently spoke with Senior Sandra Deshazer, who receives Meals on Wheels because arthritis makes it difficult for her to cook, about what would happen if the service was eliminated.
“It would be really bad because people like myself, I don’t walk or drive any more,” Macon, Georgia resident Deshazer said.
“They just can’t afford to go to the grocery store and buy all the things they need,” said Meals on Wheels volunteer Sandra Bush, who makes visits to 18 seniors in Macon. “They have to depend on someone else.”
“We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good… 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,’” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said.
“Excuse me?! I see these people waiting for their food to come every day. It works,” Bush said.
The program works for 56-year-old Linda Preast, who signed up two years ago after a stroke left her in a wheelchair. Like most residents in her county, she voted for Donald Trump.
The program is her lifeline, delivering meals to her every weekday.
“Are you surprised?” CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller asked Preast.
“Yeah,” Preast said. “Because he was told- I was under the influence that he was going to help us.”
“What would you say to him to convince him not to cut this program?” Miller asked.
“What if it was your momma?” Preast said.
On Thursday, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked asked White House’s budget director Mick Mulvaney to explain the Trump administration’s drastic cuts to the Meals on Wheels program.
“Just to follow-up on that, you were talking about the steel worker in Ohio, coal worker in Pennsylvania, but they may have an elderly mother who depends on the Meals on Wheels program or who may have kids in Head Start,” Acosta said. “Yesterday, or the day before, you described this as a hard-power budget. Is it also a hard-hearted budget?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Mulvaney replied. “I think it’s probably one of the most compassionate things we can do.”
“To cut programs that help the elderly and kids?” Acosta asked, incredulously.
“You’re only focusing on half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on the recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place,” Mulvaney explained. “And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not gonna ask you for your hard-earned money, anymore, single mother of two in Detroit … unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually being used in a proper function.’”