Back in March, President Trump put forth a skinny budget proposal that left many wondering about his priorities and methods for moving America forward. While the new leader had bulked up the defense budget ($1.4 billion to the National Nuclear Security Administration alone), many community service programs and nonprofits including Meals on Wheels saw their budgets slashed in an effort to cut costs. The current administration tried to explain these cuts as “compassionate,” with Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, claiming that these programs were “just not showing any results,” adding, “We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. And Meals on Wheels sounds great.”
Some political pundits praised the budget as a return to fiscally conservative values, and a common argument in favor of the cuts to community programs and nonprofits was that private individuals and volunteers would step up to fill in the gaps. After all, isn’t that how a charity is supposed to work? And following Trump’s budget proposal, Meals on Wheels did see a surge in engagement, with a 500% increase in volunteers. Which is a thing that happens when people of conscience hear that a vital assistance program is in jeopardy.
Another argument made against federally funded nonprofits is that religious organizations will shoulder the cost formerly provided by the government. However, while many churches and religious institutions do focus on charitable giving, it in no way makes up for federal funding. Harvard professor Mary Jo Bane told The Atlantic:
“Religious congregations do a lot, but the scale of what they do is trivial compared to what the government does. Especially if you think about the big government programs like … food stamps and school lunches, or health services through Medicaid, what religious organizations do is teeny tiny.”
While many church members are regular givers, most of the money given goes towards the church’s own expenses, with only a fraction going to community programs. According to reports, the median yearly giving from congregations to social programs was only $1,500.