Concerns raised that proposed federal budget cuts could impact Meals on Wheels program for seniors

Posted at 6:55 PM, Mar 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-20 18:55:59-04

Each day volunteers deliver thousands of meals to homebound seniors in southeast Michigan.

The Federal government provides 50 percent of funding for nutrition programs administered by the Area Agency on Aging 1-B. The programs include Meals on Wheels.

But that federal support could be in jeopardy.

The Trump Administration has proposed a cut of 17.9% in the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the 2018 fiscal year. HHS provides funding for nutrition programs, including Meals on Wheels, through the Older Americans Act.

"There's a great deal of concern among the seniors who are participating in this program, particularly the homebound seniors who depend on meals because they don't have any resource to get a well-balanced meal," said Jim McGuire, interim CEO of the Area Agency on Aging 1-B. 

Thirteen thousand seniors in the six-county area benefit from Meals on Wheels. Almost two million meals are delivered to homes a year by the organizations that partner with the agency.  

"They are calling their agencies, afraid," McGuire said of some seniors. "We're trying to reassure them that this is just an idea, it hasn't been put in place," said McGuire.

But he adds the cuts are likely.

"It looks like the new administration is dead set on cutting domestic programs like Meals on Wheels and other in-home services that physically frail, older adults depend on to maintaining independently in their home and avoiding nursing home placement." 

The Trump Administration intends to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. That could impact other states but McGuire told 7 Action News, CDBG funding is not used for nutrition programs in Michigan. 

Still, he says reducing federal support will have a significant impact on seniors. 

"If these cuts go through, we're going to have to serve a whole lot fewer meals than we are today," said McGuire.