Since the White House released its latest budget proposal to defund various social programs, Meals on Wheels has received a massive increase in online donations and volunteer signups.
The non-profit organization that serves 2.4 million Americans received more than $100,000 in donations over a two-day period, officials announced on Saturday. The organization typically receives nearly $1,000 in daily online donations.
The White House announced on Thursday its plan to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program that funds 3 percent of Meals on Wheels operations nationwide. Still, spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette warned on CNN that the group’s 5,000 local branches rely heavily on the money to bring food to people who need it the most.
She explained that one branch just outside of Detroit relies on the block grants for 30 percent of their budget. And in San Jose, another branch had received nearly $2.5 million in funding in block grants to address the homeless and cover other costs.
"We can't spend money on programs just because they sound good and great," Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, told reporters on Thursday. "Meals on Wheels sounds great. Again that's a state decision to fund that particular portion to it. To take the federal money and give it to the states and say, 'Look, we want to give you money for programs that don't work.' I can't defend that anymore."
If the budget were to pass, the Department of Health and Human Services would see a 16.2 percent cut in funding. Officials with Meals on Wheels are still wondering how the budget will affect funding from the Older Americans Act, the organization’s primary source of funding. Bertolette said that Meals on Wheels would take a significant hit if that funding were cut.
"This is gonna take a huge effort on the Hill in the next weeks and months to really advocate for our program," she told CNN. "This budget would add insult to injury."