The bud­get for Meals on Wheels, which pro­vides hot meals to needy se­niors, will not be gut­ted, the White House bud­get di­rec­tor said.

Pro­gram gets lit­tle U.S. fund­ing; Democrats blast Trump’s over­all cuts

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY PHILIP RUCKER

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

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

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

OMB spokesman John Czwartacki said later that Mul­vaney meant to say that Meals on Wheels’ na­tional head­quar­ters gets 3 per­cent of its fund­ing from the gov­ern­ment, not­ing that he was not re­fer­ring to fund­ing from com­mu­nity devel­op­ment block grants. It is un­clear what per­cent­age of the pro­gram’s fund­ing comes from HUD, but it is a rel­a­tively small amount.

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 of vol­un­teers.

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 those cuts or 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 af­fect its fund­ing.

Democrats sought Sun­day to shame the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for a bud­get that takes away re­sources for pro­grams such as 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.”

“We take an oath to pro­tect and de­fend our coun­try, but our strength is mea­sured in more ways than just tak­ing money for the health, ed­u­ca­tion and well-be­ing of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, which is a source of our strength,” Pelosi said on CBS’s “Face the Na­tion.” “So com­pas­sion­ate acts of mercy? I don’t know what faith that is.”

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

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

Not­ing that Trump sup­port­ers are sen­si­tive to how their tax dol­lars are spent, he added, “Could I, as a bud­get di­rec­tor, look at the coal miner in West Vir­ginia and say, ‘I want you, please, to give some of your money to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment so that I can give it to the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts?’ And I just think we fi­nally got to the point in the ad­min­is­tra­tion where we couldn’t do that.”

AN­DREW HARNIK/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“Some of the sto­ries are just ei­ther grossly wrong or nearly grossly wrong,” White House bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney said.

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