WASHINGTON -- The budget Congress just passed restores funding that was cut away last year from nutrition assistance for poor senior citizens.
The Meals On Wheels Association of America praised Congress Friday for replacing $46 million in funding that was lost in the big budget cut known as sequestration, which had hamstrung some of the local agencies that provide group meals and home-delivered food for poor seniors across the country.
"Today we congratulate and commend the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for producing a bipartisan bill that restores critical funding for vulnerable seniors," association president Ellie Hollander said in a press release.
Since the 1970s the federal government has helped pay for free meals for senior citizens through the Administration on Aging. Local government agencies partner with nonprofits like Meals On Wheels and thousands of volunteers to distribute a million meals per day. The food and the daily contact with volunteers helps seniors live independently at home instead of at costly assisted living facilities.
After surveying its member groups in June of last year, the national Meals On Wheels association reported that 70 percent of them had instituted waiting lists for daily meals and 40 percent had laid off staff.
William McCormick of Roanoke, Va., volunteered to give up his own daily meals when he heard about the sequestration cuts on the news. "I've run into people who've been a whole lot worse off than I was," he explained to HuffPost last year.
Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) had led a group of mostly Democrats last fall in calling on budget negotiators to restore the funding. Not all programs hit by sequestration got their money back.
"Millions of Americans depend on the lifeline these meals provide," Loebsack said in a press release this week. "I was proud to spearhead this effort and pleased to see that these cuts were restored. We have to continue to meet the needs of our aging population and provide this important assistance so seniors can live with independence and dignity."
Though the cuts have been reversed, senior nutrition advocates have complained that even without sequestration, stagnant funding and an aging population have resulted in a shrinking proportion of needy seniors receiving help.