Meals on Wheels, the program that brings hot food to home-bound seniors, is facing big budget cuts thanks to sequestration, and the Meals on Wheels Association of America just released a new survey of 640 of its members to find out what choices they’re making with fewer dollars. It found that nearly 70 percent have had to reduce the number of meals they serve, dropping 364 meals per week on average. One in six have had to close home meal programs or congregate meal sites.
The impact will also be felt on those hoping to get into the program. More than 70 percent are establishing or adding to existing waiting lists, increasing waiting lists by 58 seniors on average. Meanwhile, 40 percent have eliminated staff positions.
ThinkProgress spoke with some directors of Meals on Wheels programs in May to find out how they’re coping with cuts and they reported similar decisions. The program in Contra Costa County, California is reducing the meals it delivers each day by 200 and freezing new enrollees. The Lamar County Human Resources Council in Texas will furlough its staff and likely also have to cut transportation for seniors to its community center.
All told, the programs that serve the elderly stand to see $41 million in federal funding cut, resulting in as many as 19 million fewer meals served.
Meals on Wheels is just one of many vital programs that have yet to be granted relief from sequestration’s budget bite. Yet the original argument for sequestration, that the cuts were a necessary part of reducing the deficit, has been decimated. The deficit would in fact look better if the cuts were cancelled altogether.