Bud­get chief says Meals on Wheels safe

Of­fi­cial calls sto­ries of loom­ing cuts ‘grossly wrong.’

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Philip Rucker

Mick Mul­vaney calls re­ports that the pop­u­lar so­cial ser­vice will be gut­ted “grossly wrong.”

Meals on Wheels, the pop­u­lar na­tion­wide pro­gram that pro­vides hot meals to needy se­niors, has be­come a ral­ly­ing point for crit­ics of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pro­posed bud­get, which slashes spend­ing on so­cial ini­tia­tives to beef up mil­i­tary spend­ing.

But on Sun­day, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­swered an em­phatic “no” to the ques­tion of whether the bud­get would gut Meals on Wheels.

Mick Mul­vaney, di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get, said that the fund­ing source the ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks to elim­i­nate — the De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Devel­op­ment’s com­mu­nity devel­op­ment block grants — ac­counts for just 3 per­cent of Meals on Wheels’ over­all fund­ing.

“Some of the sto­ries are just ei­ther grossly wrong or nearly grossly wrong, all the sto­ries about how we cut Meals on Wheels,” Mul­vaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Meals on Wheels is not a fed­eral pro­gram, nor do its lo­cal groups di­rectly re­ceive fed­eral fund­ing. Rather, the groups run on a mix of lo­cal, state and fed­eral money, as well as pri­vate dona­tions and the work con­tri­bu­tions of vol­un­teers, which vary depend­ing on the fund­ing struc­ture of each af­fil­i­ate.

Most fed­eral money that ends up sup­port­ing Meals on Wheels comes from a sep­a­rate pro­gram run by the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­posed cut­ting the over­all HHS bud­get by 17.9 per­cent, but has not yet de­tailed where those cuts would fall and whether they would im­pact the Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Com­mu­nity Liv­ing, which funds nu­tri­tion pro­grams for the el­derly, as The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler ex­plained. A top of­fi­cial at Meals on Wheels told Kessler that the or­ga­ni­za­tion an­tic­i­pates the cuts will im­pact its fund­ing.

Democrats sought Sun­day to shame the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for a bud­get that takes away re­sources for pro­grams like Meals on Wheels. House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Trump bud­get would “take money from Meals on Wheels and give it to the De­fense De­part­ment.”

Mul­vaney de­fended the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bud­get from crit­i­cism that its cuts to so­cial pro­grams would be painful for mil­lions of work­ing-class vot­ers in ru­ral states like West Vir­ginia, where vot­ers went heav­ily for Trump in last fall’s elec­tion.

“The pres­i­dent knows who his vot­ers are,” Mul­vaney said, ar­gu­ing that the bud­get demon­strates “com­pas­sion.”

AL DRAGO / NEW YORK TIMES

Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney has faced a back­lash for sug­gest­ing dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the White House Thurs­day that pop­u­lar an­tipoverty and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams like Meals on Wheels don’t work.

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