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Proposed Cuts To 'Most Vulnerable Among Us' May Affect Some Bergen Programs

Meals On Wheels of Bergen County delivering a meal.
Meals On Wheels of Bergen County delivering a meal. Photo Credit: Facebook

HACKENSACK, N.J. – President Donald Trump's budget proposal includes cuts to federal spending on programs, including Meals on Wheels, and spokespeople with Bergen County say that effects would be mixed.

"Currently, our constituents being served by the Meals on Wheels program will not be affected," said Rocco Mazza, communications coordinator for Bergen County Department of Human Services.

That's the program directly run by the county, but there are others operating in the county – like Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels – that might feel the impact of such cuts, Alicia D'Alessandro, communications director for the Bergen County Executive, clarified.

The president's proposed budget would cut $3 billion from the Community Development Block Grant program, Business Insider reported on Thursday.

CDBGs are administered through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which calls the program "an important tool for helping local governments tackle serious challenges facing their communities."

Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters Thursday, "We can't spend money on programs just because they sound good.

"We're not going to spend money on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we've made to people."

According to Meals on Wheels, across the country Meals on Wheels programs provided 2.4 million meals to seniors and half a million to veterans in 2016.

D'Alessandro estimated that the Bergen County program served 350,000 meals last year to 2,000 seniors and those with disabilities.

Mazza said, according to the early information he's received, Bergen County's Meals on Wheels program wouldn't be affected since it gets federal funding through the Older Americans Act, administered by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

"As of this moment, we haven't heard of any cuts to that," he said.

But other local Meals on Wheels programs do receive block-grant funds, and while that money isn't a huge part of their budget, D'Alessandro added, "every dollar counts, for these programs."

Both Mazza and D'Alessandro noted that other types of nonprofit programs in the county would see effects if block-grant funds were cut.

"CDBGs help fund dozens of projects, large and small, that really impact the well-being of people in Bergen County," D'Alessandro added.

Such programs may address domestic violence and school safety, provide low-income housing for seniors and veterans, or assist seniors and people with developmental disabilities.

"In all likelihood, you or someone you know has benefited from the funding that CDBG provides to programs throughout our communities," she added.

The White House's proposal must still make its way through Congress, which ultimately makes budget decisions.

"I'm certain that they will hear from constituents around the country," Mazza said.

"These are not the kinds of programs, for the most vulnerable among us, that we condone cuts to. A budget is an elected official's priority statement."

D'Alessandro added,

This money makes a positive difference in the lives of the nearly 1 million people that live in Bergen County. We're urging our leaders in Washington not to cut the program and preserve the funding.

You can view the brochure for the Bergen County MOW program here and apply online here.

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