Meals on Wheels, the popular nationwide programme that provides hot meals to needy seniors in the US, has become a rallying point for critics of President Donald Trump's proposed budget, which slashes spending on social initiatives to beef up military spending.

But today, the Trump Administration answered an emphatic "no" to the question of whether the budget would gut Meals on Wheels.

Mick Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director, said that the funding source the Administration seeks to eliminate - the Department of Housing and Urban Development's community development block grants - accounts for just 3 per cent of Meals on Wheels' overall funding.

"Some of the stories are just either grossly wrong or nearly grossly wrong, all the stories about how we cut Meals on Wheels," Mulvaney told NBC.


Meals on Wheels is not a federal programme, nor do its local groups directly receive federal funding. Rather, the groups run on a mix of local, state and federal money, as well as private donations and the work contributions of volunteers, which vary depending on the funding structure of each affiliate.

Most federal money that ends up supporting Meals on Wheels comes from a separate programme run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Trump Administration has proposed cutting the overall HHS budget by 17.9 per cent, but has not yet detailed where those cuts would fall and whether they would have an impact on the Administration for Community Living, which funds nutrition programmes for the elderly, as the Washington Post's Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler explained.

A top official at Meals on Wheels told Kessler that the organisation anticipates the cuts will impact its funding.

Democrats sought today to shame the Trump Administration for a budget that takes away resources for programmes like Meals on Wheels. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the Trump budget would "take money from Meals on Wheels and give it to the Defence Department".

She told CBS: "We take an oath to protect and defend our country, but our strength is measured in more ways than just taking money for the health, education and well-being of the American people, which is a source of our strength. So compassionate acts of mercy? I don't know what faith that is."

Mulvaney defended the Administration's budget from criticism that its cuts to social programmes would be painful for millions of working-class voters in rural states like West Virginia, where voters went heavily for Trump in the election.

"The President knows who his voters are," Mulvaney said, arguing that the budget demonstrates "compassion".

Noting that Trump supporters are sensitive to how their tax dollars are spent, he added, "Could I, as a budget director, look at the coal miner in West Virginia and say, 'I want you, please, to give some of your money to the federal government so that I can give it to the National Endowment for the Arts?' And I just think we finally got to the point in the Administration where we couldn't do that."