Compassionate Americans have responded to callous Trump budget cuts with increased donations and a volunteer surge for Meals on Wheels.
In what feels like a rare piece of good news that could restore one’s faith in humanity, it seems that Meals on Wheels has been inundated with a surge of good souls donating time and money after the Trump White House callously announced proposed budget cuts to the program.
Meals on Wheels America told The Huffington Post that they have seen a 500 percent surge in volunteer signups over the last two days as well as increased donations. Jenny Bertolette, vice president of communications for the organization said Friday:
“It’s been heartwarming to see this groundswell of support over the last 24 to 48 hours,” “Volunteers are our backbone. We couldn’t deliver meals without [them].”
Trump’s dismissal of the effectiveness of the program, which delivers millions of meals to the elderly and housebound, won’t shut it down completely, since the organization draws a great deal of its operating costs from donations. The proposed budget from the White House resident, however, will gut a number of other organizations that provide additional funding to the program.
Other programs, like the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, will lose their entire $3 billion budget.
Established under the Older Americans Act of 1965, the Administration on Aging provides about 35 percent of funding for Meals on Wheels. But Trump’s proposed budget cuts would slash 17.9 percent of the Department of Health and Human Services’ budget, the department that heads the Administration on Aging.
Trump’s financial hit man, budget director Mick Mulvaney, tried to defend the budget cuts on Thursday, claiming that the Community Development Block Grant was “just not showing any results.”
Although a Friday article in The New York Times claims that the DHH cuts are unlikely to affect Meals on Wheels to any significant degree, it does take on Mulvaney’s claim that the program does not achieve “results.”
The NYT looked at a 2014 review of eight studies, six of which showed that programs like Meals on Wheels improves the quality of senior citizens’ diets, increased their nutrient intake, reduced food insecurity, and perhaps most important of all, “increased chances for human contact and improved quality of life.”
Further research showed an economic analysis of such programs from 2013 that showed that if all U.S. states increased the number of seniors receiving Meals on Wheels by only 1 percent, they would have saved more than $109 million in Medicaid costs – most from reduced need for nursing home care.
Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, appeared on CNN on Friday and described how Meals on Wheels actually reduces costs on taxpayers to host Katie Bolduan.
“Cutting Meals on Wheels programs doesn’t make economic sense. We know that Meals on Wheels enables seniors to stay out of much more expensive health care settings, such as unnecessary visits to the emergency room, admissions, re-admissions to hospitals, and also premature placement in long-term care facilities. That saves taxpayers millions of dollars annually.
“We also know that Meals on Wheels can help reduce falls and things that do contribute significantly. We spend $31 billion a year in falls alone … So we know that the economics are there. We’ve had some third parties do some independent studies as well.”
Referencing one of the studies that found reduced overall costs for care as an “effective result” of regular meal delivery and home visits, Hollander continued:
“Brown University had a great study in 2012 that said that for every state that spent $25 more per senior on Meals on Wheels they would realize a reduction in the low care nursing home population of up to 1 percent. That translates to millions of dollars in Medicaid savings alone.”
V.P. Jenny Bertolette told The Huffington Post that the organization already has an overloaded waitlist:
“The scary thing about that is that funding is already not keeping up with pace. There are already demands that we can’t meet. There is already a waitlist crisis… If this budget was enacted, it would obviously just make matters so much worse.”
Bertolette also said the organization is hoping that corporate donations and philanthropists will fill in funding gaps. She also encouraged concerned supporters to reach out to their representatives in Congress before the proposals are approved.
In the meantime, it’s heartening to hear that average Americans are reaching to help our vulnerable elderly, even if the Trump administration seems to want to push them off onto the next ice floe heading out of town.
Watch Ellie Hollander on CNN below:
Featured image: By U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen – http://www.malmstrom.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/111124-F-ES731-043.jpg, Public Domain, Link