Franken highlights Trump’s proposed budget cuts

Stops in Rosemount, Apple Valley focus on senior nutrition

U.S. Sen. Al Franken spoke with members of the media at Apple Valley Villa during his tour of Apple Valley and Rosemount to highlight senior nutrition meals, which would receive reduced funding under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. Photo by Tad Johnson
U.S. Sen. Al Franken spoke with members of the media at Apple Valley Villa during his tour of Apple Valley and Rosemount to highlight senior nutrition meals, which would receive reduced funding under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. Photo by Tad Johnson
U.S. Sen. Al Franken spoke with Joseph Vaughan, CEO and president of CAP Agency of Scott, Carver and Dakota Counties, on Tuesday during a visit at Cameo Place senior living facility in Rosemount. Franken was at the congregate dining site that is part of the senior nutrition program at CAP. Photo by Tad Johnson
U.S. Sen. Al Franken spoke with Joseph Vaughan, CEO and president of CAP Agency of Scott, Carver and Dakota Counties, on Tuesday during a visit at Cameo Place senior living facility in Rosemount. Franken was at the congregate dining site that is part of the senior nutrition program at CAP. Photo by Tad Johnson
U.S. Sen. Al Franken met Amanda Wickert, a 100-year-old resident at Apple Valley Villa, who receives Meals on Wheels visits five times a week.  Photo by Tad Johnson
U.S. Sen. Al Franken met Amanda Wickert, a 100-year-old resident at Apple Valley Villa, who receives Meals on Wheels visits five times a week. Photo by Tad Johnson

Apple Valley resident Amanda Wickert has seen a lot in her 100 years on this Earth.

She’s lived through difficult times and fears about the future through the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War’s nuclear threats.

Wickert told U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Tuesday that she wanted to live to be 100 because that would mean she was able to cast a ballot in the 2016 election. Her birthday is Oct. 26.

Now that she’s 100 and seen all that she has, Wickert said she’s nervous about what President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will do to programs like Meals on Wheels, which provides her with a hot lunch five times a week at Apple Valley Villa.

“I don’t know what I would do without Meals on Wheels,” Wickert said.

Though most members in the U.S. Senate and House aren’t in favor of cutting federal funding for programs like Meals on Wheels, Trump’s call for spending reductions for senior nutrition services and a 16 percent cut in Health and Human Services prompted Franken to visit with seniors in Rosemount and Apple Valley on Tuesday to bring attention to the issue.

“It’s really counterproductive to cut Meals on Wheels,” Franken said. “It leverages the funding very well. It is something that works.”

Franken said Trump’s budget proposal is an indication that he doesn’t understand the value of the program or even how it works.

Joseph Vaughan, CEO and president of CAP Agency, said the agency’s Meals on Wheels program serves 19 different sites in Dakota, Scott and Carver counties, including 1,000 seniors.

It receives funding through federal block grants and funds from the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging. Trump’s budget calls for the elimination of one program that some of the nation’s 5,000 Meals on Wheels groups rely on: community development block grants, according to a USA Today report.

Vaughan said CAP’s meal program is run mostly by part-time help and volunteers who work at congregate dining sites and deliver the meals.

“These people know the value of it,” Vaughan said. “For many of the clients, this is the only contact they have with someone during the day. It supports them physically, mentally and emotionally.”

Vaughan told Franken that because of the senior population boom, the number of Meals on Wheels clients served by CAP of Dakota, Scott and Carver could double in the coming years.

Of the agency’s $16 million annual budget, about a third of it is supported by federal funds, some direct and some are passed through the counties or other entities, Vaughan said. About half of CAP’s budget goes to serve Dakota County residents.

That’s an indication of the local need as Dakota County is the most populous of the three.

In addition to running Meals on Wheels, CAP offers energy assistance, food shelf services and runs the Head Start preschool program for qualifying families. Its Dakota County location is in Rosemount just east of City Hall on 145th Street.

Franken has been surprised by the number of colleagues who don’t know the details in what cuts to community development block grants would mean.

As he spent time with Rosemount and Apple Valley residents, he said he’s impressed by the local Meals on Wheels program.

“It means they get to be visited every day by someone who sees they are OK,” Franken said. “It allows them to be able to stay at their home and not go to a higher level assisted living or nursing home, which saves everybody money.”

And Franken used the opportunity when talking with Wickert to do some advance campaigning and volunteer recruitment.

“You know I am running for re-election in 2018, so I am counting on your vote,” he said causing both of them to laugh. “And I’ll also need some door-knocking help.”

Contact Tad Johnson at [email protected] or at twitter.com/editorTJ.