Lack Of A Federal Budget Creating Problems For Meals-On-Wheels And Other Programs

Jan 25, 2018

Most of the news on the federal budget has focused on DACA, military readiness, or the prospect of another shutdown.  But the lack of a full-year federal budget has greatly affected local social service agencies in Illinois, too.

Mary Alessi, of Genoa, pours hot broccoli and cheese soup into containers to be delivered to Meals on Wheels recipients
Credit Jenna Dooley/WNIJ

The series of Continuing Resolutions passed by Congress has kept the lights on in Washington, but it has wreaked havoc with local programs like Meals-on-Wheels. That’s according to Ellen Rogers, Executive Director of the Voluntary Action Center.

The nonprofit provides services like Meals-On-Wheels, wellness checks and transportation to seniors in DeKalb, Bureau, Kendall, LaSalle and Putnam Counties. She said the problem is that the CRs, as they known, are not the same as having a regular budget.

“Because our funding,” she said “which is under the Older Americans Act, does require an appropriation.  You know, that has to be authorized under a budget.”

Rogers said agencies like hers across Illinois rely on federal reimbursements to pay for programs.  But the temporary measures passed by Congress don’t authorize funding for many of them.

“So, we have only received a trickling of federal dollars,” she said, “and that’s really, what might have been held in reserves at the state level.  Right now, that’s come to a screeching halt.”

Rogers said the Center has had to resort to a private fundraising campaign called “Let No Senior Go Hungry” to support its programs.  The goal is to raise $40,000 by April 1.  Rogers said the alternative is to let more seniors go hungry, or be unable to stay in their home because of a lack of services.