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Proposed Block Grant Cuts Could Slow Meals On Wheels

Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

More than 2,000 seniors in Southern Nevada rely on Meals on Wheels for food, and another 900 are on its waiting list.

But that program could be in trouble if community development block grants are cut from the federal budget, as outlined in President Trump’s plan.

Deacon Tom Roberts is the CEO is Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, which operates Meals on Wheels locally.

He said CDBG funding provides the "horsepower" for Catholic Charities and other organizations to implement food and homeless services programs.

"Cuts to [CDBG] would be catastrophic, and sadly, for some of the most vulnerable in our community," Roberts said.

Roberts said Meals on Wheels provides a third of its client's food intake a day and often is the only human contact they get.

“That meal and the fresh milk and the fresh fruit that go with it are really the lifelines for so many of these seniors because so many are homebound and many are alone," he said. "The driver and the program become their human life line as much as their food lifeline."

The federal grant money is the only grant money they receive. The state of Nevada has historically not given much financial support to programs like his, Roberts said. This legislative session, however, the state did provide some funding for Catholic Charities.

Block grant funding also helps fund the charity's programs for the homeless and the food pantry. Roberts said without the federal funding the charity will do its best to keep providing services, but it will be difficult.

"Cuts to programs like this would be Draconian and disastrous for those most vulnerable,” he said.

Roberts said the charity provides almost a thousand free meals every day to anyone who can't afford food. He said that while many people have seen their wages and job prospects improve the people at the very lowest economic rung, have not.

“People we serve at the lowest end of the economic totem pole are not seeing the recovery,” he said.

The block grants allow the charity to have a client-choice food pantry, which means people using it can come and pick what they need. Roberts said the pantry and other services provided by Catholic Charities offer gap assistance when people don't have enough resources - usually at the end of the month - to make ends meet. He is concerned without that gap assistance people will slip silently in homelessness. 


Deacon Tom Roberts, CEO, Catholic Charities

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.