Meals on Wheels could lose funding under Trump budget plan

RaShawn Goston read off the labels on Rhoda Jones’ prepackaged meals for the week: herbed chicken and vegetables, tilapia, and pork tips, which he remembered is one of her favorites.

Jones is one of 2,100 Meals on Wheels recipients in Las Vegas, a program that has been run through Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada since 1975. A Catholic Charities official said the state recently earmarked money for the program, but proposed budget cuts by the Trump administration may pose a threat.

At 22, Jones was a military nurse during World War II. She’s now 93, lives alone in her North Las Vegas home, is “catastrophically blind,” according to her, and has been receiving Meals on Wheels deliveries for three years.

Goston, 47, has been delivering her meals for two years, and their friendship shows in their easy camaraderie.

“You like some better than others. Even the Lord did that; he loved Peter, James and John the best,” Jones joked, referencing her Christian faith.

“If he can do it, then why can’t we? So Shawn is my favorite,” she said, referring to her meal deliverer.

Out of the 65 to 75 regulars along his route, Goston admits to having his own favorites. Goston sells Nike shoes on weekends, but he is passionate about his weekday work.

“To me, I get more of a giving-back type of feeling,” Goston said while driving his truck to his first stop of the morning. “I see people cancer-stricken, Alzheimer’s. A lot of them remember when I come.”

In Nevada, many seniors struggle with hunger; the state is last in the country in funding for home-delivered meals to seniors, according to the Administration for Community Living’s Aging Integrated Database.

Meals on Wheels still has 900 people on the waiting list in Las Vegas.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has set aside $750,000 in the state budget for Meals on Wheels, said Deacon Thomas Roberts, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada.

“It will help, but it will not completely address the deficit,” he said.

Federal funding for Meals on Wheels in Southern Nevada is $2,449,872, which accounts for 62 percent of Catholic Charities’ total funding for the program, data provided by Catholic Charities show. The rest of the money, nearly $1.5 million each year, comes through donations.

But much of that funding could soon disappear.

With the proposed cuts in the Trump administration’s 2018 budget blueprint, charities such as Meals on Wheels stand to lose federal funding.

Roberts said no one knows for sure how much the program would be affected.

“We don’t know what, if any, federal dollars would be affected,” he said. “None of that information has been released.”

But for a program already struggling to serve its population, any reduction would hurt.

“If you cut health and human services funding, it would be catastrophic for the people that we serve,” Roberts said. “There’s no way I can make up the difference. More people are going to go hungry.”

Jones said a friend told her about the proposed budget cuts.

“There are so many people that need it so badly,” she said of the meal program. “I would say that’s one of the last things that they would cut.”

She expressed gratitude for the service and the friendship the program brought her.

“God has really been good to me. I feel like he would supply my needs,” Jones said. “But I am very concerned for people who have hardly any income coming in whatsoever.”

Roberts recently visited Washington, D.C., to lobby against cuts to Meals on Wheels. Like Jones, he is hopeful, yet aware of the consequences a scaled-back budget would bring.

Roberts said, “I had a man call me the other day and say, ‘Deacon, if it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t be alive today, or I would be in a nursing home. You saved my life.’”

Contact Brooke Wanser at bwanser@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Bwanser_LVRJ on Twitter.

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This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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