President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal could cut a large percentage of funding for Meals on Wheels in Hillsdale County, according to data from the Hillsdale County Senior Services Center and Meals on Wheels America.
Hillsdale County’s Meals on Wheels program is a service of the Senior Center, and is one of 5,000 local programs in the nation that sends volunteers to deliver meals and visit with senior residents. The program currently receives 26 percent of its funding through the Older Americans Act, and another 15 percent through Medicaid Waiver. Both are sources of federal funding matched by the state. The center’s finance director, Wendy Crawford, said that each could be affected separately by the proposed budget.
On a national scale, the proposed budget would cut 17.9 percent of funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the department that includes the Older Americans Act under which Meals on Wheels nationally receives 35 percent of its funding, according to a statement from Meals on Wheels America. The statement explained that this number should not be confused with the 3 percent federal funding cut for Meals on Wheels America, the national membership organization that supports the 5,000 local programs through “advocacy, education, research, and national partnerships and campaigns.”
The center’s executive director Terry Vear said that since the Hillsdale County program receives 49 percent of its funding through senior millage dollars, a federal funding cut would not impact Hillsdale’s program as much as it might for other programs in the nation. But she said it would still be wrong for the federal government to cut funding.
“We would have to cut meals,” she said. “You would have vulnerable adults who can’t stay home because they don’t have food, and so they would have to stay in nursing homes, which is more expensive.”
In the 2016 fiscal year, 75 Meals on Wheels volunteers in Hillsdale County served a total of 62, 512 meals to 391 residents, according to data from the center.
Mary Wolfram, director of economic development for the City of Hillsdale, said the center, since it is a sub-organization of Hillsdale County’s government, would have to re-assess its funding through the county, in the case of a federal funding cut.
District 4 Hillsdale County Commissioner Bruce Caswell said that he doubts that the federal government would cut a significant percentage of funding for Meals on Wheels. He said that, based on his own experience in dealing with Medicaid programs as a former Michigan state senator, he thinks that Meals on Wheels might be able to cut “administration waste” without affecting the programs that actually deliver services.
“The question that needs to be asked is how much is being wasted on administration,” he said. “Meals on Wheels is a good program for the seniors, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be run more efficiently.”
District 3 Hillsdale County Commissioner Mark Wiley said there is not much anyone can do about the proposed budget at the moment, because much could change after Congress makes its assessment.
“A proposed budget is just that — it’s a proposed budget,” he said. “Even though it is possible that you could see upwards of 35 percent cut through the budget process, that number could end up being 5 percent.”