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Posted on: March 30, 2017

Passaic County Freeholders Voice Opposition to Proposed Cuts to Meals on Wheels

(Paterson, NJ) - The Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, in response to President Trump’s proposed budget, has voiced strong opposition to cuts to the successful and popular program Meals on Wheels. Funding for Meals on Wheels, relies in part on money from the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which would be cut under President Trump’s proposed budget. White House budget chief, Mick Mulvaney responded to criticism by stating, “Meals on Wheels sounds great,” which Mulvaney said during the White House news briefing. “We're not going to spend money on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people,” added Mulvaney.

“I cannot speak to where Mick Mulvaney gets his facts from, but there is demonstrable evidence that Meals on Wheels not only helps people, but saves taxpayer money in the long run,” said Freeholder Director Sandi Lazzara. “To have the White House budget chief say that evidence showing Meals on Wheels delivers on its promises doesn’t even exist, that shows their true agenda.”

Health Services Research (HSR) has conducted several studies on the impact of Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is often praised for its ability to reduce the need to place homebound senior citizens into nursing homes, and a study done in December of 2012 showed that increased spending on home delivered meals was associated with fewer residents in nursing homes. By the same token, 31.5% of Medicaid’s $400 billion yearly budget goes to long-term care for seniors. In addition, another study by HSR in 2013 showed that if every state increased the number of seniors they served by 1%, the program would save $109 million a year on long-term care costs. It was also determined that the cost of one month at an average long-term care facility costs the same has feeding that senior citizen through Meals on Wheels for seven years.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4001076/#R5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664926/

“If the goal of Trump’s budget cuts is to reduce spending, it does not accomplish that goal,” stated Freeholder Assad Akhter, who chairs the Human Services Committee. “The monetary cost of keeping these people in their own homes is a drop in the bucket compared to caring for them in a nursing home, and that does not even factor in the human cost. For some of these seniors, the person who brings their food is the only person they interact with.

“In addition to that, Meals on Wheels serves as a wellness checkup. Many seniors experiencing a medical emergency have been assisted by Meals on Wheels drivers. I don’t know how someone can put a monetary value on that,” Freeholder Akhter added.

Meals on Wheels has been struggling financially for several years. According to data collected from Meals on Wheels and HRS, 40% of Meals on Wheels programs are cutting staff, 50% are cutting seniors from their program, 40% are reducing the number of days they deliver meals, and 70% are reducing the number of meals delivered. Additionally, 1 in 6 programs are closing congregate sites or the program all together.

“If Congress decides to cut funding for Meals on Wheels, Passaic County will either have to cut people from the program, reduce the number of meals we provide, or both,” said Freeholder Pat Lepore, who also serves as the Budget Chairman. “In 2016, Passaic County delivered 178,303 meals to 1,374 homebound senior citizens. The impact on these people and their families will be dire if this program is cut.”

Passaic County currently has a waiting list for Meals on Wheels assistance.

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