Central Texas Meals on Wheels worried about federal dollars at stake

Mike Prochoroff has been volunteering for Meals on Wheels for 20 years (KXAN Photo/Amanda Brandeis)
Mike Prochoroff has been volunteering for Meals on Wheels for 20 years (KXAN Photo/Amanda Brandeis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every Friday, Mike and Kerry Prochoroff make their way from Dripping Springs to the Meals on Wheels Central Texas headquarters. Their volunteer work there is a 20-year tradition.

“Why? Because this is the way the world ought to work. If everybody does this, then it’s better,” said Mike. “And it needs to be done. People need to be kept in their homes, they love their homes.”

The first stop on their route is Cecil Harris, who started getting hot meals about a year ago, after his cancer diagnosis.

“Every little bit helps. I wish they would give them more money so I could get three meals a day, but you have to take what they give you, and appreciate that,” said Harris.

Instead of more money, the program is at risk of losing federal funds. In his budget proposal released this week, President Trump is looking to cut 13 percent from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A lot of that comes from the president’s proposal to cut a $3 billion community block grant program.

“Quite honestly we were all surprised here, we feel our services save taxpayers money in the long run,” said Thad Rosenfeld with Meals on Wheels Central Texas.

About 35 percent of their budget comes from government entities, include federal, state, city and county money. The remainder comes from corporate donors, foundations and individual donors.

While it’s only a fraction, Rosenfeld says because they keep overhead low, any cuts affect their bottom line. “If we get less funding that is fewer meals we can deliver, fewer services we can provide,” said Rosenfeld.

In addition to delivering meals, the program helps clients with home repairs, grocery shopping assistance and welfare checks by trained case managers.

He says by keeping low-income seniors in their home, they’re able to save taxpayer money in the long run.

“We can provide a year’s worth of services to a homebound older adult for about $2,100 a year. The alternative to that is — if these people have to leave their home and go into assisted living, if they’re low income, taxpayers pick up that tab, that’s $35,000 to $40,000 a year. ”

Andy Hogue, communications director for the Travis County Republican Party, says many conservatives do not want to see the program go away. However, they don’t believe the federal government should pay for it.

“In a pure conservative world there wouldn’t be any government funds for social programs, unless it was something people couldn’t do on their own, but we believe that charity is best served in the private sector,” said Hogue.

The program says if cuts happen, they’ll find a way to go on, but hope their clients don’t pay the price.

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