Local ‘Meals on Wheels’ program fears for future under proposed federal budget

MARQUETTE — “Gosh, it would be absolutely devastating to a lot of the seniors. They just depend on it,” said Director of Community Nutrition Services at Community Action Alger-Marquette, Lori Stephens-Brown.

The multi-faceted program not only serves meals to the senior citizen populations of Alger and Marquette Counties, but drivers also conduct wellness checks. This has been known to save lives as drivers have found seniors in the midst of a medical emergency, incredibly ill or who have fallen down and unable to get themselves back up.

In the course of one year, over 70,000 meals are made and delivered to around 550 local seniors. The grand total to run the program for a single year comes in at $460,000. But the future of the program is up the air after President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal suggested cuts that would affect the block grant that supplies money to program administrators.

“If those funds are cut, that would close our doors because we have to have administration to run the programs,” said Stephens-Brown.

Nearly 48 percent of the programs budget is from federal and state funding. Twenty-five percent comes in lieu of donations from the seniors receiving the meals. The rest of the budget is made up by local donations, grants, assistance from United Way and millage dollars from both counties.

The program itself could face an 18 percent cut from the federal government and would call for more donations from the community in order to keep its doors open. Furthermore, Stephens-Brown said Meals on Wheels is a cost-saving program and benefits more than just the seniors receiving help.

“By keeping the seniors independent in their homes, the cost to the federal and state government is about $1,000 a year, but that may keep a senior out of a nursing home, which would close to $100,000 a year.” The group has reached out to local legislatures for support, hoping to persuade the President to not take money away from the program. Stephens-Brown said they are also looking to educate the public on the situation and answer any questions people may have.

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