Arlington, VA, February 12, 2018 – Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander issued the following statement in response to the release of the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget:
The President sent his Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget to Congress today to lay out a vision for a more efficient, effective and accountable U.S. Government. While this is a goal to which we can all agree, the proposed elimination of critical funding sources – coupled with double-digit cuts to the federal agencies that exist to support the nationwide network of Meals on Wheels programs – puts millions of vulnerable seniors directly in harm’s way.
The sobering reality is that the number of seniors struggling with hunger has doubled over the past two decades, and because funding has not kept pace, Meals on Wheels programs supported through the Older Americans Act are serving roughly 20 million fewer nutritious meals than they were able to in 2005. If indeed the needs of older Americans are a priority of the Administration, then this urgent and growing problem should be reflected in the budget, along with the funding necessary to address it. Without changing the trajectory of our investment now, there’s no way we’ll be able to keep up with the demands of a rapidly increasing senior population, leading to unnecessary hospitalizations, premature nursing home placements and even greater healthcare expenses and debt.
It’s shortsighted to call for the elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), on which some Meals on Wheels programs rely to fill the funding gaps that already exist. Today, one in four local Meals on Wheels programs reports having a waiting list of seniors in need of services, and these additional cuts would simply add insult to injury.
Not only is it our social imperative to ensure that at-risk Americans are cared for, but the comprehensive service that Meals on Wheels programs deliver is also an efficient and effective economic solution that can, in fact, help avoid costlier healthcare interventions by keeping seniors healthier and more independent at home. This proven public-private partnership matches every federal dollar with roughly three dollars from other sources, utilizes an army of two million volunteers, and is the only federally-supported program designed specifically to meet the nutritional and social needs of seniors.
Inadequate funding of federal sources on which Meals on Wheels programs rely – along with the proposed elimination of, or significant reductions to, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Medicaid and other safety net programs for low-income Americans and people with disabilities – would exacerbate the widespread suffering felt by millions of vulnerable seniors and put greater pressure on an already strained senior support infrastructure.
I implore the President and our leaders in Congress to make the needs of our most vulnerable and isolated seniors a higher priority throughout the budget and appropriations processes so that no senior in our country is hungry, forgotten or unheard.
About Meals on Wheels America
Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America’s seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time. For more information, or to find a Meals on Wheels provider near you, visit www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org.
Jenny Bertolette Young
Meals on Wheels America