Arlington, VA – December 22, 2020 – Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander and National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) Executive Director Bob Blancato released a joint statement in response to the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021:
As representatives of the nationwide network of senior nutrition programs, both congregate and home-delivered, we want to recognize the months of negotiations and hard work by Members of Congress and their staff that led to the bipartisan passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. This legislation brings months of federal funding uncertainty for the current fiscal year to a close. It also includes provisions that take steps to help more of America’s hungry families place food on their tables and to support nonprofits in continuing to assist people in communities nationwide amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In August, bipartisan letters in the House of Representatives and Senate had called for $750 million in emergency Older Americans Act (OAA) nutrition funding to supplement the COVID-19 relief resources made available in March. Lawmakers recognized the need for continued aid and provided this requested funding in the bipartisan, bicameral proposal released earlier in December. However, the final package only includes $175 million in relief funding for the OAA Nutrition Program, a fraction of the earlier proposal. We are disappointed in this funding level and view it as a long-awaited down payment on what we urge to be further investment to meet the unprecedented need in the face of this pandemic and beyond.
In other words, this is not the time to ease federal support. Senior nutrition programs across the nation continue to see a dramatic increase in requests for meals and from a new pipeline of homebound older adults because of COVID-19, far surpassing the more than 221 million meals and 2.4 million seniors these programs had previously been serving annually. In addition, programs have incurred significant costs outside of standard operations to meet this influx in demand, including those required to convert congregate nutrition programs to home-delivered meals models; secure personal protective equipment (PPE); and cover increased food, transportation and storage costs. This must all be considered when determining future emergency funding.
While this legislative package also provides a $15 million increase for the OAA Nutrition Program in annual appropriations for FY 2021, this, too, is significantly less than needed at a time when our nation’s senior population is rapidly expanding – and the number of isolated and food insecure older adults is rising right along with it. Further, this level of funding does not meet the levels that were unanimously approved when the OAA was reauthorized in March 2020.
Millions of older adults remain in need of the most basic elements of human dignity, like food and care, and more must be done now to avoid dire long-term consequences. We are committed to working with the incoming Congress and the new Biden-Harris Administration to build on recent bipartisan support and make these priorities a reality in any future COVID-19 relief legislation. We cannot turn our backs on our most vulnerable neighbors when they need us most.
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.
Founded in 1977, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) is proud to be a leading organization advocating for community-based senior nutrition programs and staff. Our member programs represent a wide range of essential services providers who support the nutrition, health and life quality of seniors. With over 1,100 members from across the United States, we are national advocates for senior health and wellbeing who strengthen the policies and programs that nourish seniors. We accomplish this mission through a collective national voice and through local community action. For more information, go to nanasp.org.
Meals on Wheels America
Jenny Young, 571-339-1603
Meredith Ponder Whitmire, 202-789-0470