How Federal Budget Cuts Could Endanger Seniors In King County

With the release of the President’s Budget Blueprint, many have reached out to Sound Generations with concerns about how seniors here in King County will be affected. At this point, the budget is scant in details. Still, we wanted to take the opportunity to clarify our funding sources, and to underscore the danger these cuts pose to all of our programs.

Nationwide, Meals on Wheels services receive 35% of their funding from the federal government. Some media outlets have incorrectly reported this number to be 3%, confusing it with the federal funding received by Meals on Wheels America, the national membership organization that does not provide direct services (e.g., meals). This miscommunication dramatically understates the significant impact of any federal budget cuts that may affect Meals on Wheels.

Roger Ryan, a Meals on Wheels recipient in Seattle who signed up for the program after an injury hindered his ability to walk.

Sound Generations’ Meals on Wheels is a local program that delivers more than 400,000 meals each year to homebound elders in King County with help from more than 300 volunteers. While we are affiliated with Meals on Wheels America, our program is independently operated and funded and is one of many services that Sound Generations’ provides to local seniors. Other resources we provide include transportation, home repair, health & wellness, information & advocacy, community dining and senior centers throughout the region.

Roughly half of funding for all of our programs is derived from government sources. This is directly a results of the Older Americans Act, which has supported senior programs nationwide for 45 years. Currently, the President’s budget does not explain how the Act will be affected. However, as a representative for Meals on Wheels America wrote last week, “With a stated 17.9% cut to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which these critical services would not be significantly and negatively impacted if enacted into law.”

Another target of the proposed budget is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). While this is not a major funding source for our MOW program, it funds other work we do such as Minor Home Repair – a program that provides affordable repairs and disability modifications that help seniors stay safe and independent in their homes.

In short, there is no doubt that the proposed cuts would have severe and dangerous consequences for our region’s elders even if the exact nature of these effects would vary across programs and is as yet unclear.

What Sound Generations does not receive in government funding, we are grateful to receive from a combination of individual, foundation and corporate donations. Our work would not be possible without this support and we cannot overstate our appreciation for the generosity shown by our community throughout the years.

There has been some speculation in the media with regards to whether programs like Meals on Wheels are necessary. We encourage those interested to read this article citing numerous peer-reviewed studies showing how meal delivery improves health by reducing falls, alleviating loneliness, quickening recovery from hospital stays and more. Moreover, providing meals to a senior for an entire year costs roughly the same as a one day stay in a hospital.

This research confirms our belief that the greatest service we can provide to our region’s seniors is to connect them with a network of staff and volunteers who are empowered to help them, and who care deeply about their well-being.

As of this year, our organization has served our elderly neighbors and those who care for them for 50 years. With the help of our community, we can ensure we’re open for 50 more.

To make a tax-deductible donation of any amount, click here.

You may also find and contact your local congressional representative to advocate for older adults.

Thank you so much, on behalf of all the older adults we serve.