Meals on Wheels Cuts in Trump Budget Would Hit Local Seniors

"I don't think President Trump will do that," a Meals on Wheels recipient who voted for Trump said

Seven days a week, Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver food to 100 homebound seniors in Alexandria, Virginia.

The budget President Donald Trump proposed on Thursday calls for major cuts.

The exact size of the potential funding cut to Meals on Wheels is unknown, but on Thursday White House budget director Mick Mulvaney criticized the program.

"Meals on Wheels sounds great. Again, that's a state decision to fund that particular portion, 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. I can't defend that anymore," he said.

But local officials say the program works.

"There's no question that this is an effective program and makes a difference in the life of the most vulnerable people in our population. It's just appalling that anyone would even suggest that," said Mary Lee Anderson, the executive director of Senior Services of Alexandria.

News4's Chris Gordon accompanied Meals on Wheels volunteers on Friday as they delivered hot dinners and cold lunches.

Pearl McCray, 94, lives alone and regularly receives the meals. The deliveries help her avoid the danger of being near the stove, her son said. Gordon asked McCray what she would do without the meals.

"I just would do what I used to do -- do without it," she said.

The City of Alexandria pays for the service with the help of donations but could not run the program without federal funds, which cover 40 percent of costs, Anderson said.

Trump's budget proposal would cut hundreds of millions of dollars for the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as eliminate Community Development Block Grants provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Both agencies provide funding for Meals on Wheels, although its main source of funding is the Older Americans Act, overseen by the Health and Human Services Department. Trump's budget cuts HHS spending by about 16.2 percent, but does not include a line item for the Older Americans Act or Meals on Wheels.

The budget also eliminates the $3 billion community block grant program, which some communities use to supplement Meals on Wheels and provide safety checks for the elderly. It was not clear how much of the block-grant funding goes to Meals on Wheels, since decisions are made by states and local governments.

Meals on Wheels recipient Grace Cottrill, 83, said the service is vital for her.

"It's very important because I'm getting worse, my health," she said.

Cottrill voted for the first time in November and said she voted for Trump. She said she wasn't worried the new president would cut Meals on Wheels funding.

"I don't think President Trump will do that," she said.

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