Erik Paulsen regularly issues a video Correspondence Corner in which he responds to constituent questions.
It is a great ploy — Congressman Paulsen determines what question is to be answered … thus, providing him an opportunity to portray himself as effectively responding to issues that he wishes to address as if they are the most critical issues that voters want addressed.
The MN Political Roundtable will be evaluating Congressman Paulsen’s responses and encouraging readers to offer their own assessments.
Today’s topic, Meals On Wheels
Tomorrow’s topic, H. R. 3727 to require Medicare Advantage plans to include telehealth services as a base benefit beginning in 2020.
In this week’s edition of the Paulsen Correspondence Corner, Sandra of Coon Rapids writes imploring Congressman Paulsen to support funding for senior nutrition programs.
Congressman Paulsen may have read a recent SunPost story since he cites the same data — “the American Meals on Wheels program is based out of Virginia, with approximately 218 million meals being delivered to 2.5 million Americans in 2016 alone.”
Congressman Paulsen did not mention how Meals on Wheels gets its funding — which is through the Older Americans Act’s Home-Delivered Meal Services funding, plus community development block grants in which various cities would designate monies, and private donations.
Congressman Paulsen offered some good news for Sandra … but there is a lot more that he did not say … and a serious question about his claim that Meals on Wheels funding was increased.
OK … this is where the #MathGuy gives seniors a little lesson in budgets.
Congressman Paulsen focuses on “Meals on Wheels” most likely because of the media reporting that Trump’s OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said “We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. And Meals on Wheels sounds great.”
No doubt Congressman Paulsen got a quite a few emails asking him to protect Meals on Wheels funding … and seniors should be concerned since he voted for the Republican health care plan which included a “age tax” … can he be trusted not to cut funding for senior nutrition programs ?
Well, here’s the news … when the House approved H.R. 3354 — “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018″, it included $227,342,000 for Home-Delivered Meal Services, which is the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level, so not an increase but not a decrease.
As Robert Aderholt, Republican representative of Alabama’s Fourth District said “We protected our most vulnerable populations in this bill by providing funding for all of USDA’s nutrition programs at levels that ensure all eligible participants will receive the nutrition assistance that they need.”
Hmmm …. same dollars … does that mean the number of participants is constant ?
Well, according to Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Democrat who represents Oregon’s First District that is a concern, and spoke on the floor :
Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment to increase funding for senior nutrition programs under title III of the Older Americans Act. My amendment funds these programs at levels authorized by the House just last year.
We are in the middle of an unprecedented demographic shift as this country ages. The population of older adults is growing faster than at any point in history. As we grow older, we all want people across the country to be able to age with dignity, health, and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, funding for the Older Americans Act has drastically lagged behind the growth in the older adult population, the increasing need for services, and the rising cost of delivering these supports.
This stagnant and, in some areas, eroding Federal investment in OAA programs costs us more in the long term. When seniors can’t stay healthy at home, they end up in hospitals paid for by Medicare or in institutional long-term care, often funded by Medicaid. Both are far more expensive than adequate investments in the Older Americans Act to keep seniors healthy at home for as long as possible.
Support for the Older American Act is strongly bipartisan. Last year, Congress voted without opposition to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, a bill that included modest increases in authorized funding levels.
Unfortunately, annual appropriations still fall woefully short of these amounts we clearly and firmly approved.
Congresswoman Bonamici’s amendment was rejected !
So why does Congressman Paulsen think that the Republican-controlled House increased funding ?
Maybe he was confused … confusing “Meals on Wheels” with “Meals in Outer Space” … ’cause the Republican-controlled House is concerned that America’s human spaceflight program be fully funded and that we will have Americans launched back into space on American-built rockets as soon as humanly possible.
Yep, while Home-Delivered Meal Services is being held flat at $227 million, NASA is getting a $218 million increase !
What Congressman Paulsen does say when he voted to support “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018″, is some of the cuts that seniors might be interested in … such as,
— Community Services Block Grant facing a $115 million cut (which support the work of the Aging Network serving older adults at the local level — see above at where Meals on Wheels gets its funding)
— Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is facing a $219 million cut
— State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is facing a $47.1 million cut
— Elder Rights Support Activities, including the Elder Justice Initiative is facing a $2 million cut
— and lastly, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is being moved in budget pools so it could face a 25% reduction. Worse yet, this cut would mean a loss of jobs for 10,000 lower-income older adults. This loss of funding would impact nutrition programs that depend on SCSEP employees to operate.
In 1977, Hubert H. Humphrey said: “The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
That comment is still true today.
Considering the number of older Americans who are impoverished or economically insecure should be a clear signal that we have much more work to do.
This is not a time to cut services that seniors rely on.
For Republicans, they hear from constituents urging them to protect senior nutrition programs, but they have instructions to cut $5 billion from spending (while providing funding for The Trump Border Wall … in H.R. 3354 Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, American taxpayers are providing $784 million for 32 miles of new border fencing in Rio Grande Valley (RGV), Texas, $498 million for 28 miles of new levee wall in RGV, and $251 million for 14 miles of secondary fencing in San Diego, California) and more money for the space program.
If Congressman Paulsen believes that Meals on Wheels funding is being increased, he must be talking with the Senate … ’cause it sure does not appear to be the case … but his vote will mean cuts to a variety of programs that serve seniors.