Local Meals on Wheels braces for potential $50k budget cut

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) - Central New York seniors could get caught in the crossfire of a federal budget battle.

The Trump Administration reportedly wants to cut funding for The Department of Health and Human Services by nearly 18 percent.

For years, seniors have counted on weekly deliveries from volunteers, but Meals on Wheels of Syracuse is bracing for a budget battle under the Trump Administration.

"Potentially, we could be losing $50,000 as a result of cuts to the Older Americans Act funding, which is under the Health and Human Services,” said Meals on Wheels Executive Director Mason Kaufman.

Overall, Kaufman says federal funding brings in $300,000 a year— nearly a third of his entire budget.

With threats of cuts looming, some other branches saw spikes in donations. But, Kaufman says he hasn't seen a major uptick at his Syracuse office yet.

"Believe me, if we could raise another $50,000 on a yearly basis and we could figure that out, we would be doing it,” Kaufman said.

The agency recently started a waiting list for new clients, claiming local needs are outpacing funding. Thirteen people are on the Syracuse chapter's list. The agency is dipping into special funds to feed them.

"You can't turn away people who are coming out of a hospital, have no other alternative and say ‘please wait - wait while you starve.’ It's not something we hope to live with,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman is optimistic that public pressure will protect the program. He also offered economic argument suggesting long hospital stays are less likely for seniors who stay nourished at home.

"They're more likely not to be admitted to a nursing home. All of these things cost so much more money than what we're trying to save on the front end. Makes no sense,” he says.

Some Meals on Wheels branches get funding from different federal sources, so even if cuts are restored to the Department of Health and Human Services, benefitting Syracuse, other delivery programs across the country could still be in jeopardy.

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