Arlington, VA, December 2, 2017 – Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander released the following statement regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts independently passed by the Senate and House:
As the national organization representing some 5,000 community-based nutrition programs delivering daily meals, safety checks and socialization to more than 2.4 million seniors annually, we express our deep concerns about the impact the current tax code overhaul legislation would have on our nation’s most vulnerable seniors.
The price tag of tax cuts that increase the federal budget deficit by more than $1 trillion, combined with the statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) law – requiring Congress to pay for legislation by either reducing other mandatory spending or increasing other revenues to avoid automatically triggering deep spending reductions – once again puts all funding sources supporting Meals on Wheels programs at risk of being drastically cut or eliminated entirely. This includes funding provided under the Older Americans Act, Social Services, Community Services and Community Development Block Grants.
In the recent past, fiscal concerns resulting from growth in the federal deficit have led to disproportionate and damaging cuts to critical nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs, such as the automatic-across-the-board sequestration cuts of 2013 that eliminated about $50 million in federal funding for Meals on Wheels programs. Nearly five years later, programs are still struggling to recover, serving thousands fewer seniors, with mounting waiting lists for meals in every state, all while the nation’s senior population is growing exponentially.
Further, an anticipated reduction in taxpayer itemizations, resulting from doubling the standard deduction, is estimated to decrease charitable contributions by $13 billion annually. This would have a significant deleterious impact, further squeezing already resource-strapped community-based senior nutrition programs at a time when we should be encouraging charitable giving to social services that help support our aging population.
Ensuring that our nation’s most at-risk seniors receive the proper nutrition and companionship needed to maintain their health and independence at home and out of far more expensive healthcare settings should be a social and economic imperative, and viewed as a preventative solution for reducing the deficit. Simply put, we can either invest a little now in cost-effective programs like Meals on Wheels – which helps keep seniors’ medical and long-term care expenses to a minimum, saving taxpayers billions of dollars each year – or foot a much larger bill for increased healthcare expenditures down the road.
As the House and Senate reconcile their differences between the two tax packages, we urge conferees, leadership and all Members of Congress to take this opportunity to make improvements to the bill and take the time needed to reach a bipartisan agreement.
Jenny Bertolette Young
Meals on Wheels America