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UPDATED! Seniors Won't Starve if Meals on Wheels Loses Government Grants

Most chapters get majority of funding from philanthropy, not tax dollars.

CityMealsonWheels.comCityMealsonWheels.com

UPDATED: Scroll down for a note clarifying overall percentage of funding Meals on Wheels receives from government sources.

As Scott Shackford has noted, Donald Trump's budget blueprint calls for zeroing out the oft-abused Community Development Block Grant program, which is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program is rife with waste, fraud, and abuse but because it also funds the popular Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to housebound seniors, well, it shouldn't be cut at all, right?

Earlier today, I received a spam email from the Democratic National Committee that read in part

There are a lot of details to parse through in the budget blueprint Donald Trump released this morning, but you can get the gist of it from one sentence:

Donald Trump is cutting Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers meals to senior citizens in need, to pay for his border wall.

But does Meals on Wheels rely on government grants to do its good work? There are hundreds of Meals on Wheels organizations around the country, so it's hard to generalize, but overwhelmingly, the groups get the majority of revenue from charitable giving, not government funds. In 2015, for instance, the national Meals on Wheels reported that government grants accounted for just 3 percent of its annual revenues of $7.5 million. Meals on Wheels for San Diego County in California says that government grants made up just 1.5 percent ($68,534) of its revenues of $4.4 million. Not all branches are so independent. Atlanta's group gets 48 percent of its revenue from government grants (none of the annual reports I looked at broke down exactly what level of government or specific program supplied the money). Many of the annual reports don't even break down revenues by source (see here) and others aren't even posted online.

The point? As Matt Welch writes, we have gotten so used to increased government spending on everything that any cut to any program is automatically cast in apocalyptic terms. As I wrote earlier today, I'm no fan of Donald Trump's budget, which actually fails to reduce net discretionary spending and ignores completely the far larger issue of "mandatory" spending on entitlements, which, along with interest on the debt, comprises about two-thirds of the federal budget. But the plain fact is that we have for years now been spending far more than we raise in taxes.

That simply can't continue indefinitely and there's every reason to believe that massive, persistent deficits that are covered by continual increases in national debt tamps down economic growth. Despite all manner of attempts to goose tax revenue upwards, it's exceptionally rare when the feds can squeeze more than about 18 percent of GDP out of us for any length of time. Simply put, we need a government that spends less and does less. And that means that not all programs, even ones that do good work, can or should be paid for out of taxes. In many cities, Meals on Wheels would barely be affected by losing all federal grants. In others, the local citizens (and corporations and charities such as The United Way) would need to step in to fill the void. That's hardly the worst possible outcome—can Atlanta not really feed its poor senior population via philanthropy?—and it certainly shouldn't stop Americans from coming to terms with basic fiscal realities.

The problem with Trump's budget plan is that it spends exactly the same amount on discretionary outlays as President Obama's did—right around $1.1 trillion. The only difference is that what Trump subtracts from non-defense programs, he plows back into the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. That's not progress and it's not even good politics. It would be better to put the military on a diet along with the rest of the government and explain exactly why all agencies should be doing more with less.

UPDATED: Here's a statement from Meals on Wheels America, the national coordinating group for the service, on federal funding.

The nationwide Meals on Wheels network, comprised of 5,000, local, community-based programs, receives 35% of its total funding for the provision of congregate and home-delivered meals from the federal government through the Older Americans Act, administered by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living. Other federal funding sources that support Meals on Wheels program operations may include the Community Development Block Grant, Community Services Block Grant or the Social Services Block Grant. In addition, programs rely on contributions from state or local governments, private donations and other resources to cover the rest, demonstrating one of the best examples of a successful public-private partnership. Meals on Wheels America, the largest and oldest national organization representing senior nutrition programs across the country, receives only 3% of its funding from the government, specifically to run the National Research Center on Nutrition and Aging.

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  • DanO.||

    Would. Both. Same time. Don't judge me.

  • AlmightyJB||

    All day.

  • CooterBrown||

    This is the first not gay comment I've ever seen you post. Keep it up!

  • SomeGuy||

    if i was like 20 or 30 years older lol

  • x'); DROP USER Tony;||

    if i was like 20 or 30 years older lol

    You have a lot to learn.

  • ||

  • Hugh Akston||

    I would think that these non-profits would love to get off the government dole in the long term. I mean, if you do good work, you'll never go wanting for private and corporate donations, but governments are terrible at managing their money, and you never really know when that money will dry up.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    I think many of take the money wherever they can get it. I mean, there is a reason the federal government makes up two-thirds of Catholic Charities' budget.

  • Longtobefree||

    PLEASE, cite your source.

  • ThomasD||

    +1

    If this is the case I'd really like to know it.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, curiosity got the better of me, along with the desire for another cup of coffee. According to the 2015 Federal tax form 990 for Catholic Charities USA, part VIII, statement of revenue, government grants (level of government not specified; assuming all?) were $2,005,600 of a total revenue of $18,308,217.
    So a little under 11%.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'd love to get money from someone who was terrible at managing their money.

    "Did I pay you last month?"

    "No... no you didn't."

  • Conchfritters||

    This in a nutshell what seniors have been doing to the youngest generation.

  • kidsampson||

    "if you do good work, you'll never go wanting for private and corporate donations"

    Lol I work in nonprofit fundraising and from this I'm willing to bet you do not

  • Paper Wasp||

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    People support the charities that are important to them. They don't support the ones that aren't. That doesn't mean you're entitled to government money. Life isn't fair and it's not the government's job to guarantee that all charities get money.

  • Rhywun||

    There are a lot of details to parse through in the budget blueprint Donald Trump released this morning, but you can get the gist of it from one sentence:

    And a talking point is born. Don't bother with any pesky details.

  • SIV||

    Earlier today, I received a spam email from the Democratic National Committee

    Before you yokels all shout "SEE"! It should be noted that as a licensed journalist Nick regularly receives emails from his professional trade association.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Starving seniors will help bring down health Care cost.

  • Damned||

    Agreed. Which is the single most important reason to do this

  • Longtobefree||

    And, more importantly, they will not be able to watch Sesame Street while they starve.
    What about the children?

  • Conchfritters||

    How about compromise? No meals on wheels, and no border wall. There - done.

  • Conchfritters||

    "Shortey was charged Thursday with engaging in child prostitution, transporting a minor for prostitution and engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of church. He was booked into the Cleveland County Detention Center and released on bond."

    The church doesn't want any competition.

  • ThomasD||

    " I'm no fan of Donald Trump's budget, which actually fails to reduce net discretionary spending and ignores completely the far larger issue of "mandatory" spending on entitlements, which, along with interest on the debt, comprises about two-thirds of the federal budget."

    I get sooo tired of the "it's entitlements, stupid" response to any budget discussion.

    Yes, entitlements are the iceberg in front of our Titanic Spending, but if we cannot even cut the little (and not so little stuff) then we can forget about cutting the really tough stuff.

    Start small, and build from there.

  • Damned||

    Yes, because that 80-20 adage is all wrong. We should focus really hard on the 20 percent, and the 80 percent will take of itself

  • NoCrapTaken||

    Most of this story is just not factual. Check your facts. http://www.mealsonwheelsameric.....-facts-map

  • Sevo||

    What sort of crap are you providing?
    Your statement is in no way supported by a map claiming to identify the number of needy people.

  • NoCrapTaken||

    Click on the map you flaming idiot and it will tell you state by state the percentage of meals provided through the federal funding mechanism mentioned at the bottom of the article. To say it is 3% is wrong and not factual - Sped

  • Sevo||

    Yep, looks like Meals on Wheels is going to have to find new money.
    But if you expect someone to de-code your cites, fuck you.

  • Damned||

  • Karen24||

    The reason the Trump budget is so enraging is that the cuts are exclusively on the butter side of the guns/ butter split. I would give up Meals on Wheels, Public Broadcasting, and the NEA if the Pentagon, Homeland Security, and the damned border wall suffered equally. So long as there are huge increases in the defense budget and Hunt County Texas gets a Department of Homeland Security, there's no reason to make cuts that just look evil and have no actual reduction in the total budget.

  • ThomasD||

    Like it or not defense spending is an express responsibility of the Federal government. We can certainly quibble over the extent of that spending, but the fact that it takes precedence over things that are not within the Federal purview should not be seen as any sort of problem.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Winner. Add in the fact that if you zero out the defense budget the federal budget just breaks even. Next year it will be in deficit again because entitlements continue to grow, so even if you completely remove defense spending we still go bankrupt. That shows you that we can't afford all of the butter we're spending regardless of how many guns we buy. To add insult to injury a healthy chunk of that military spending is just welfare in another form, and I'm not talking about fighter jetz and corporations.

  • Damned||

    Add in the fact that if you zero out the defense budget the federal budget just breaks even

    Cool. Starting with an even budget would be awesome

  • Karen24||

    I'll concede the Pentagon, but Homeland Security is another matter. There is no reason for the Feds to be sending old military equipment to local police forces.

  • Sevo||

    "There is no reason for the Feds to be sending old military equipment to local police forces."

    Agreed, but there are no taxpayer costs involved, so it's not germane to the issue.

  • Longtobefree||

    The locals have to spend a bunch to maintain that old military equipment.

  • Damned||

    They could sell that to Somalia, and give taxpayers back their money. They let guns be sold, what's wrong with tanks?

  • Damned||

    As long as that indifference is consistent

  • Damned||

    Precisely.

    Which is why, I'd love to see this budget pass.

    Bet you $50 that reason.com will then defend it as truly on the libertarian path

  • mtrueman||

    "can Atlanta not really feed its poor senior population via philanthropy?"

    Can Americans not really defend themselves via philanthropy?

  • Sevo||

    Who let the kids into the adult area?
    Did Joey tell you that was clever?

  • mtrueman||

    My personal favourite philanthropic cause. Say hi to Joey for me.

  • Damned||

    Not the rich snowflakes that reason.com libertarians mollycoddle

  • Draco||

    That simply can't continue indefinitely and there's every reason to believe that massive, persistent deficits that are covered by continual increases in national debt tamps down economic growth.

    I'm here to remind you, once again, that this is wrong. There is very little reason to believe what you just said - even though most uninformed people do believe it. As a sovereign issuer of currency and debt, the US government can run deficits forever, with the only possible problem being inflation (not solvency, slow growth, etc), and that won't happen if the deficit is right-sized to correspond to the needed monetary growth in the economy.

    You ridiculously stubborn people, who have warned for more than 15 years now about how how US deficits were going to wreck the economy, need to look at the empirical evidence. Reagan ran massive deficits (record breaking at the time) and experienced massive economic growth. This was not a coincidence.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Correlation is not causation.

  • Draco||

    And fiat currency isn't gold. Austrians are wrong. Money is a tradeable tax credit guaranteed by the Treasury and the Fed. The US can't run out of it, and can never fail to repay debt denominated in its own currency (currency and debt are actually just two forms of the same thing, but that's for advanced students).

  • Hunthjof||

    Plus not all of their federal funding comes from the CDBG. Something like 35% comes from another gov program.

  • Damned||

    I think this is fine. Cancel meals-on-wheels.

    That should pay for three more drones.

  • magnusfl||

    I like you to try to live a year in the shoes of some who get the meals delivered to try and live on 873 a month income 640 dollar rent plus electric and water which comes to 750 then add med costs toilet paper and cleaning supply's so there often noting left so they try and exist on 142 in food stamps a month about 4.71 a day or a 1.57 a meal so people do starve on that already

  • Lacky||

    Sadly not everyone receiving meals on wheels are poor. Seniors are the richest segment of society. One of my grandmothers has literally millions of dollars (which she is working hard on giving away to charities because she hates paying taxes), but still gets meals on wheels. The solution tot his problem is to shame people into taking care of their elderly. I know it may be strange, but yes, your parents become your responsibility when they get old. If someone has no children, then they should turn to charity.

  • Paper Wasp||

    so they try and exist on 142 in food stamps a month about 4.71 a day or a 1.57 a meal so people do starve on that already

    Good. Let them starve. If it were more generous, these handouts would breed even more parasites.

    There are 7.5 billion people on this rock. People are not special or rare. The ones that cannot or will not take care of their own needs should die off. There is no need to coddle parasites. A thousand babies will be born tomorrow to replace a human parasite who dies today. Humans are the only species that expect and demand that the productive ones come in to save the unproductive ones from their own stupidity and poor planning.

    A recent surge in donations shows that Meals on Wheels is perfectly capable of making up any government "shortfalls" through the generosity of people unlike me, who actually want to feed the worthless deer ticks of our society. They've just demonstrated that they never needed the $3MIL in the first place.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    The problem with Trump's budget plan is that it spends exactly the same amount on discretionary outlays as President Obama's did—right around $1.1 trillion. The only difference is that what Trump subtracts from non-defense programs, he plows back into the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. That's not progress and it's not even good politics

    I think it's excellent politics: it means that people who are big on military spending will support the budget; that is, he doesn't alienate all groups simultaneously, which would be a foolish thing to do.

    He still has several years to go; once people have gotten used to the non-military spending cuts, he can then cut back the military.

  • kidsampson||

    You never mentioned what CDBG /does/ fund, so I Googled it for you

    Housing development for seniors and the disabled
    Homeownership initiatives for low-income people
    Improvements on schools, public parks, and infrastructure
    Redeveloping blighted neighborhoods
    Helping communities recover from natural disasters
    Small amounts can go to general community programs like after school programs or food banks

  • Hunthjof||

    Homeownership for low income individuals. Translation the government lead idiocy that got us into the last financial nightmare. The program is a fraud laced pork fest.

  • XM||

    The nationwide Meals on Wheels network get 35% of its funding from the government, while Meals on Wheels America get 3%?

  • Damned||

  • AlgerHiss||

    "Seniors Won't Starve if Meals on Wheels Loses Government Grants"

    Let's expand on this quite accurate notion:

    Abortion "clinics" won't disappear if Planned Parenthood loses government grants.

    Kids cartoons and Big Bird, and leftist oriented docudramas won't disappear if PBS loses government grants.

  • Damned||

    But right wing military would crumble if all those were saved

  • Redliana||

    This article is misleading in its assertion that seniors won't starve if Meals on Wheels loses Federal funding. The local Meals on Wheels organizations that actually provide food service for home bound seniors received 35% of their funding from the Federal government. That amount will be very difficult to obtain from the private sector (e.g. industry, small business, private citizens), and there will be a negative impact to their program.

    I am surprised that Reason published such a misleading article.

  • Longtobefree||

    Still won't starve. Didn't starve before, won't starve after.
    May die from climate change, but won't starve.

  • Longtobefree||

    How about getting the feds, and state and local governments out of the charity business?
    Eliminate the whole part of the tax code dealing with this, and let the givers figure out how much to give, and to whom.
    Just crazy, I guess, but if the tax deduction is the reason you give, you aren't being charitable.
    The religious will continue to tithe, because that is an act of faith, not charity.
    The secular charities will find out exactly how much people actually think of their work.

  • Redliana||

    Viewing Federal monies spent on programs such as Meals on Wheels as "charity" is incorrect; these programs save society and government money. Enabling elderly people to stay in their homes is much less expensive than housing them in nursing homes paid for by Medicaid (Medicare does not pay for long term nursing home care, only acute care such as post surgical needs). Cost benefit analyses should be conducted on every program, and include non-monetary factors such as quality of life. Meal on Wheels not only provides nutritional sustenance but increases quality of life for many of the recipients.

    As an aside, I am not religious and do not give charitable contributions for the tax break, but rather to further programs that I deem societally important.

  • ||

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