UPDATE: Some information just came to my attention that I didn't know about at the time I wrote this story, and apparently, Chris Collins didn't know about either. The budget proposal doesn't directly cut Meals on Wheels at all. It cuts a community block grant program that is used for a lot of things, and a tiny portion of that money sometimes goes to Meals on Wheels. There are also other federal funding sources for Meals on Wheels. See this article from Reason Magazine.
During an appearance on CNN last night, Rep. Chris Collins vowed to support Meals on Wheels through the congressional budget process.
"It's a wonderful program," Collins said. "I would never even vote to cut $1 from that program."
Though she didn't directly hear Collins on TV last night, that's good news to Ruth Spink, director for Office of the Aging, which administers Meals on Wheels in Genesee County. She said the program has many benefits for the residents who participate, their families and the volunteers who help deliver meals.
A budget proposal put forward by President Donald Trump would cut all federal support for Meals on Wheels.
Spink said at the spur of the moment when we called this morning say how much of the funding for the local program comes from the federal government, but that the program is subsidized by federal and state money along with a county match, which makes up 90 percent of the funding for the program. Elderly participants who receive meals also have the option to pay for the meals, though that is not a requirement.
Spink said in the county, about 90 meals are delivered per day and another 30 are served at a community meal hosted at various locations.
The benefits of the program go beyond meal delivery, Spink said. The daily visits by volunteers can also serve to check on the welfare of elderly people, giving peace of mind to them and their family members, as well as give many of these people who are shut-ins a bit of social time with another person, and it allows older people to stay in their homes longer, which saves taxpayers money.
"Perhaps Trump doesn't understand that the more in-home service we can provide the longer we keep them out of residential care, which is significantly more costly than home delivered meals," Spink said.
There is a group of about 25 people who volunteer to deliver and serve meals, and groups such as the Kiwanis Club of Batavia provide more volunteers on a rotating basis.
Collins told Van Jones on CNN last night that his mother-in-law received Meals on Wheels before she died and that when he was county administrator in Erie County; he oversaw the program there and visited the community centers that ran the program, so he knows how important and valuable it is, he said.
Spink said she understands there is a whole budget process Congress must go through before the fate of Meals on Wheels is decided and support from Collins is great, but people need to speak out, she said.
"It's only a proposed budget, so we don't want people to panic, but we do want people to let their representatives know how important this program is to them," Spink said.
On the show, Collins said he also supported immigration reform that would make it easier for farmers to hire and retain immigrant labor and that he believes immigrants who came here without documentation but have been productive and stayed out of legal trouble otherwise should be allowed to stay in the country legally. He was addressing a young lady who is part of the Dream Act Program and Collins told her he welcomed her to our country and wished her a long and successful life in the United States. He said he didn't believe any undocumented workers who hadn't committed criminal acts once in the United States were being deported.
He reiterated his support for an NIH program he helped sponsor to help deal with the opioid epidemic, but when pressed by Van Jones on the issue, which Trump campaigned on, Collins said many of the issues around opioid addiction are really state-level issues.
Renee Sutton, of Canandaigua, one of his constituents, pressed Collins on why he hasn't held, and has refused to hold, a town hall meeting. Collins said he never held one while county executive in Erie County and hadn't held one before this became an explosive issue this year. He said he doesn't believe in them because they are not a productive way to hold meaningful conversations with constituents. He said he meets with constituents all the time and values small group discussions, such as those he regularly has with farmers and medical professionals. He said any constituent can request a meeting with him and he will meet with them.