Recently, news that proposed federal budget cuts could eliminate some Meals on Wheels programs went viral, alarming people who rely on the program for home-delivered meals. It also set off alarm bells for many Project Angel Heart clients, who called us, wondering if the meals delivered to their homes might also be in jeopardy.
Well, I have good news…and bad news.
The good news is that our program is not in immediate jeopardy, although we do have concerns about the proposed “skinny” federal budget. Currently, just nine percent of our operating budget (approximately $300,000) is projected to come from government sources this year, but it is funding we count on. Here is information on a few of the proposed budget items that would have the greatest effect on Project Angel Heart:
- The president’s proposed budget eliminates funding for community development block grants (CDBG). Presently, we receive approximately $44,000 in CDBG funding, which will help us provide meals for more than 170 individuals in need in 2017. And we have been working to increase the amount of CDBG funds we receive in order to meet the growing need for our program.
- The proposed budget also eliminates funding for the community services block grant (CSBG) program. Each year we receive approximately $55,000 in CSBG funding. Last year CSBG funding covered the costs (in full) of over 7,300 meals for vulnerable neighbors in need.
- A proposed 18 percent decrease in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may negatively impact our Ryan White HIV/AIDS funding, which was more than $110,000 in 2016.
The bad news is that, while we are early in the budget process and many things will change over the next few weeks, we are working within a context of great uncertainty. This proposed budget sets a tone for deprioritizing funding for our most vulnerable neighbors, people like those served by Project Angel Heart. And, while our agency’s current level of government funding is low, we see future partnership with Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded programs as a way to grow our program, improving community health outcomes while decreasing costs to health care providers and payers.
We believe that food is medicine. We see the clients we serve. We hear their stories. We know that, on average, our clients are living with seven to eight diagnoses. If it weren’t for Project Angel Heart’s medically tailored meals, they would be choosing between food and medication, which we know to be the case for one in three Americans coping with a chronic or life-threatening illness.
These cuts would affect real Coloradans, like Terri, Marie, and LaShaun. We’ve reached out to our elected officials to let them know of our concerns, and pledge to stand up for the vulnerable Coloradans we serve.
Erin Pulling is president and CEO of Project Angel Heart, where she has served in a variety of roles since 1995. In addition to providing leadership and strategic direction for the organization, she serves on the boards of the Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Dining Out for Life International Association. She is the recipient of a Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Livingston Fellowship, the Colorado Restaurant Association’s 2012 Outstanding Professional award, and the Denver Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 honors in 2008. Erin lives in Denver’s Whittier neighborhood with her husband and their three children. Erin enjoys late-night, random cooking projects that often go horribly wrong, early morning runs, backpacking, and playing ridiculous and imaginative games with her kids.