Senior meal programs in Minnesota would take a hit if President Barack Obama and Congress fail to reach a deal to avert automatic across-the-board spending cuts by Friday.
The White House says nutrition assistance for seniors would lose about $845,000 in the state between now and September. Patrick Rowan is the executive director of Metro Meals on Wheels, a partnership of nonprofits that deliver more than one million meals in the Twin Cities area each year. He said the program is already strained.
"We've seen cuts from the state level; we've seen cuts from the federal level; we've seen drops in donations periodically because of the economy," Rowan said. "What is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back? Hopefully this won't be it, but site by site is going to have to decide whether or not they can continue to serve meals."
Rowan said Meals on Wheels programs in the Twin Cities area could lose about $30,000. He said the program not only provides healthy meals for seniors, but also regular visits for people who are homebound.
Metro Meals on Wheels is an association of 35 Meals on Wheels programs in the Twin Cities metro that delivers to about 4,000 people in the Twin Cities every day. Rowan said the group is getting calls from seniors who are worried they aren't going to get meals.
"We're telling them we don't know. We're telling them to cross their fingers," Rowan said. "We're also telling them that if they really want to do something about it, they can contact their elected officials and let them know how important Meals on Wheels is to them."
It's unlikely the 5 percent cut will force Meals on Wheels to serve fewer people in the metro area, Rowan said, but he can't say for sure. He said the program is already strained by increases in gas and food prices.