Trump’s budget pro­posal could cut funding for Hillsdale’s Meals on Wheels program.
(Photo: Wiki­media)

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.”