Syracuse-area Legal and Meal Services Would See Deep Cuts Under Trump Budget

Mar 17, 2017

Credit lscny.org

Agencies in Syracuse that provide services to vulnerable residents are finding that they, themselves, might be vulnerable to severe cuts in funding under President Trump’s budget blueprint.  It appears to be the latest dip on the roller coaster of federal support.

Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of Syracuse Mason Kaufman knows the massive increase in military spending has to come from somewhere, but the questions is where.

"Why Meals on Wheels programs, who have been struggling with funding provided by the government over the past decade."

He estimates at least 30 Onondaga County seniors are already on a wait list because federal funding hasn’t kept pace with the increasing need to serve healthy meals to a growing, aging population.  Kaufman says it’s a matter of paying now…or later.

"We're going to see many more malnourished seniors, we're going to see increases in chronic illness, we're going to see more hospital admissions,  longer hospital stays, more nursing home placements.  That's going to cost us health care and Medicaid dollars far more than what the cuts are going to be."

Credit meals.org

Meanwhile, low-income residents who need a lawyer might have a much harder time getting representation. Dennis Kaufman is Executive Director of Legal Services of Central New York, which includes the Legal Aid Society.

"I've been involved in civil legal services for more than 40 years.  I've watched what's happened, and it's often a roller coaster."

He says about a third of their $6 million budget would be wiped out under Trump’s spending plan. 

"The state has taken a look at what percentage of people they think that we can help throughout the entire state," Kaufman said.  "It's probably only about a third right now of people who are eligible for our services who are actually receiving services from us.  This would just put it in reverse."

Kaufman says just the prospect of cuts is making some lawyers on the team very nervous.

"We're afraid that now some very good lawyers who've been working for us are going to say 'I have a family to feed.  I'm going to have to find another job,'"  Kaufman said.  "It could drain some of the program  in anticipation of it even happening."

Both Dennis Kaufman with legal services and Mason Kaufman with Meals on Wheels are optimistic that congress will step in and restore most if not all of Trump’s proposed cuts.