At a visit to the Meals on Wheels program headquarters in Monroe and Lackawanna counties in his home state of Pennsylvania, Rep. Tom Marino (R) said that he supports the program but that he is concerned with reducing long-term debt. While calling the funding of Meals on Wheels a “no-brainer,” he still said “I can’t stand here and tell you your agency won’t be cut.”
“It’s going to take two decades — even if we start now — to try to eliminate this debt,” he said. “Folks, we do not have the money. The revenue is not there. How are you going to pay for it?”
The executive directors of the program delivered comments written on paper plates from the low-income elderly recipients of the meals asking him to help end sequestration cuts and increase the program’s funding. The local programs haven’t had to reduce meal days yet, but Linda Steier, executive director of Meals on Wheels in the area, told the Pocono Record, “It’s looming large.”
Still, those programs are among the fortunate, as many others across the country have had to reduce the number of meals they serve, freeze new enrollees, shutter community centers, and furlough staff. In fact, nearly 70 percent report having to reduce their meals. All told, initial projections were that $41 million in federal funding for the program would be cut, resulting in as many as 19 million fewer meals served.
Meanwhile, the deficit would actually look much better without the automatic spending cuts of sequestration. And many of those cuts actually do more harm than good, such as cuts to Meals on Wheels: The program helps keep many elderly living in their homes, and they may have to move to nursing homes or face more hospital visits without its benefits, which ends up costing more.