Army veteran, David Day, often gets his only meal of the day from the Meals on Wheels program. "I don't know what I'd do without it," he said.
The Meals on Wheels program packages meals so that the may be reheated and eaten over a long period of time. This is because many of their clients only get a single meal a day.
Lemuel Watson, Vice Chairmen of the South Carolina Arts Aliance, said that there would be financial repercussions to cutting the S.C. Arts Commission's financial funding because of its ability to raise quality of life and draw new talent to a community.
President Trump's budget plan cut $54 billion to federal programs. This includes Americorps, which deployed over 400 personel in South Carolina during the 2015 flood.
By Brodie Putz
David Day, a retiree and veteran, leaned on his walker as he welcomed a volunteer into his home armed with a foiled-wrapped meal of meatballs, vegetables and mashed potatoes. This was to be Day’s only meal until another Meals on Wheels volunteer arrived the following day.
“The VA doesn’t classify me as homebound,” he said. “But I can’t leave my home. I can’t even cook….People don’t realize how much I depend on these meals.”
Day is one of more than 400 senior citizens in Richland County who rely on Meals on Wheels, a program partially funded through an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That department's budget would suffer significant cuts under President Trump's proposed “America First” budget unveiled earlier this month.
The plan proposes $54 billion in agency cutbacks to offset a rise in defense spending. The proposed reductions have alarmed community activists, environmentalists and artists, among others, as word circulated that the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for National and Community Service could suffer deep cuts. The budget document calls for almost every federal program will see some sort of reduction except for the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.
Meals on Wheels isn’t specifically mentioned in the plan. But the community block grants that partially fund the program is a target and that worries Bridgette Winston, communications coordinator of Senior Resources, which oversees the program in the Midlands.
“We already have a big waiting list because of how short on funds we are,” she said. “And if we get cut further, the people we serve will need to be institutionalized. And that’s a lot harder on tax dollars than we are. A full year of meals for one of our clients is less expensive than one day in the hospital.”
Advocates for the arts are also worried what these budget cuts mean for South Carolina. Lemuel Watson, vice chairman of the South Carolina Arts Alliance, warned that the state could experience financial repercussions if President Trump’s plan is enacted.
“I think most people just assume that the arts in Carolina end at the paintings on the wall,” he said. “But it’s so much more than that. The arts improve the quality of life in the community. They attract new workers and consumers to the community. And they also empower the community.”
In 2012, arts and cultural production contributed more than $698 billion to the U.S. economy, or 4.32 percent to the U.S. gross domestic product. That is more than construction ($586.7 billion) or transportation and warehousing ($464.1 billion).
The National Endowment for the Arts’ budget in 2016 was $148 million – or approximately 0.012 percent of the federal budget. The “America First” budget would eliminate this funding in its entirety.
South Carolina could experience setbacks in environmental clean-up as well if Trump proceeds with his call to reduce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is slated for a 31 percent budget cut under his plan. This includes a reduction of the agency's Hazardous Substance Superfund account by $330 million to $762 million. There are currently 34 active Superfund sites in South Carolina that remain hazardous to the public and have yet to be fully cleaned up.
President Trump’s budget would go into effect in 2018 and faces a deadline of Sept. 30 to be passed. Before then, however, congressional committees in both the House and Senate will hold hearings on the plan. And with Democrats and Republicans denouncing parts of the budget, the possibility of it being passed in its current form is unlikely.