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Statement to Volunteers

What cutting Meals on Wheels funding in Dallas would actually look like

We wonder exactly which Meals on Wheels recipients White House budget director Mick Mulvaney would like to drop as part of proposed cuts to "programs that don't work."

Could he mean the woman who volunteered to cradle premature babies at Parkland well into her 90s and then after she turned 100, ended up bedridden herself and in need of meal deliveries once a day?

Or would he stop the meals for the white-haired octogenarian who looks like Mrs. Santa Claus but can't drive anymore? She greets Meals on Wheels volunteers by saying, "I'm just glad I am still here."

Or would Mulvaney prefer to drop the man who worked at manual labor all his life and barely has enough teeth to eat the meals a kind volunteer brings?

The administration's plan to drop the $3 billion Community Block Grant program would have a harsh impact on cities like Frisco and Plano, which help fund Meals on Wheels from the federal block grant. Food for more than 1,400 high-need seniors in Collin County would be jeopardized by the cuts.

Dallas residents would be impacted even more severely if the Trump administration decreases support for nutrition programs for the elderly in its proposed 17.9 percent reduction to the Department of Health and Human Services budget. Those HHS funds support many of the Meals on Wheels deliveries around the country. Eliminating them would put deliveries at risk to 2,400 homebound elderly and disabled in Dallas.

For sure, the federal budget could use a scrubbing, but care should be taken to make sure older Americans are not put in jeopardy as a result.

The federal share of the public-private partnership has already shrunk. Eight years ago, government funding made up 70 percent of the Dallas VNA Meals on Wheels budget. Today, it makes up 40 percent.

In the meantime, the need in Dallas has more than doubled — and will keep growing as the population ages.

Common sense and a smidge of math show that programs like Meals on Wheels are not just a touchy-feely notion; they save money. The nonprofit Meals on Wheels can help people survive in their own homes for only $6 a day — in contrast to care in a Medicaid nursing home bed for $150 a day, or being hospitalized for malnutrition or dehydration at a cost of $1,500 a day. That means providing meals to homebound seniors costs only $1,500 a year — about the same as one day in the hospital.

Rather than jump on a budget train going the wrong way, Texas' congressional representatives should do their homework and make sure budget cuts are made in a common sense, fiscally responsible way.

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