The Trump administration this week outlined a budget blueprint for the 2018 fiscal year that promises sweeping funding cuts across many government departments.
Some of the largest proposed cuts in the $1.1 trillion plan are a 31 percent decrease for the Environmental Protection Agency and a 29 percent drop in State Department spending.
But one of the most controversial cuts in the White House plan would eliminate the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program that funds organizations like Meals on Wheels.
The grant program provides cities with funds to help with things like affordable housing and economic opportunities for people with little to no income.
But it’s Meals on Wheels, the national nonprofit that provides food for the homebound elderly, that has taken the spotlight in the controversy surrounding the elimination of those grants.
In Collin County, where the population of senior citizens has ballooned, Meals on Wheels will serve over 250,000 meals in 2017.
The Collin County branch relies on the Community Development Block Grant for 4 percent of its annual funding, CEO Marzella Tyson said.
While 4 percent might not sound like much, Tyson said those funds go directly to food costs and “without that money, 32,000 meals would be eliminated a year.”
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the federal grant program hasn’t been showing any results and the government “can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good.”
“Meals on Wheels sounds great,” Mulvaney said Thursday. “But to take the federal money and give it to the states and say, look, we want to give you money for programs that don’t work — I can’t defend that anymore.”
Tyson strongly disagrees.
“We served over 1,400 seniors last year,” she said, “and we target those with the highest need and we check in on them every day. There are results from these grants, and we’re proof of that.”
The proof, she said, is in the stories of people like “Miss Nelma,” a McKinney widow who was left homebound after major heart and hip surgeries and who relies on Meals on Wheels to eat. Or a man named Ed who is confined to a wheelchair and whose loneliness is cured by daily visits from Meals on Wheels volunteers.
If federal funding were cut, Tyson said, changes to the organization could take shape in several different ways, like having to cut back on offering meals five days a week or reducing the number of people served each year.
Lori Schwarz, the director of neighborhood services for the city of Plano, explained that Meals on Wheels is just one of the many organizations that the city allocates Community Development Block Grant money to annually.
But local interest in the federal funding keeps growing as the number of senior citizens in Plano has spiked in recent years, Schwarz said.
“We would not be able to have the programs at the same level as we do now without that grant,” she said. “These programs would be severely impacted.”
Regardless of the potential budget cuts, North Texas senior citizens will continue to be served by Meals on Wheels one way or another, said Fallan Carrillo, the organization’s senior service program director.
“So many people overlook seniors. These are people who raised us and built our community, and they need our help. People need to realize that,” Carrillo said. “Everyone has a grandma.”