Larsen volunteers with Meals on Wheels, meets local seniors threatened by budget cuts

    Margaret Johnson thanks Congressman Larsen for his support of continued funding for Meals on Wheels. “I was hungry, and Meals on Wheels has made all the difference,” she said.

    U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-2nd District) pitched in on Wednesday to help deliver meals to Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace seniors as a part of the Senior Services of Snohomish County Meals on Wheels program – an initiative that would be partially cut under President Trump’s proposed budget.

    One of those on the route was Margaret Johnson of Edmonds, who depends on Meals on Wheels for her daily main meal. Since suffering a stroke that caused her to lose much of the use of her left arm, Johnson finds it hard to prepare food. “Meals on Wheels is great. The food is all prepared and all I have to do is heat it up,” she said with a smile.

    Prior to helping distribute meals, Larsen met in Lynnwood with Martha Peppones and Steve McGraw of Senior Services of Snohomish County, where they discussed nutrition services and an array of other programs aimed at seniors that are also facing the federal budget ax, including Meals on Wheels, Home Repair, Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors, and programs providing senior companions.

    In the afternoon, Larsen addressed a group of several dozen seniors over lunch at the Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center.

    “The seniors pay only $3 each for these meals,” said Senior Center Director Mike Cooper. “For many this is their main meal each day. The proposed federal budget cuts threaten to cut back funding that allows us to provide these.”

    Larsen delivers a Meals on Wheels food package to a grateful Rosario Campbell of Mountlake Terrace.

    Among the issues discussed with Larsen were Social Security and health care. Larsen is an original co-sponsor of the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act of 2017, which works to expand Medicare coverage to include eyeglasses, hearing aids and dental care.

    “The proposed cuts to Community Development Block Grants would virtually eliminate the home repair program that helps seniors keep and maintain their homes rather than move to institutional living, and would kick 15 percent of Snohomish County residents currently receiving Meals on Wheels off the program,” Larsen said. “In addition to providing basic nutrition, the visits from Meals on Wheels are for some their only contact with the outside. It makes me wonder if the president in his Ivory Trump Tower understands that these cuts really hurt people.”

    A group of seniors enjoy lunch and the Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center prior to Congressman Larsen’s address.

    At the Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center, Larsen received a series of questions on threats to Social Security, and how to ensure its ongoing viability past the 2035-2040 cliff when some predict it will run short of funds.

    “The best way to protect Social Security and make sure it’s always there is to scrap the cap on income subject to Social Security withholding,” he said. “Currently the highest earners only pay into Social Security on the first $115,000 of their income. Anything above that is exempt. By simply making all income subject to Social Security, we could ensure the continued viability of the program.”

    Larsen also commented on the recent defeat of “Trumpcare” in the U.S. House, and underscored the importance of citizens getting involved and expressing their opinions.

    “During the debate on health care, I received more than 3,000 emails and phone calls from citizens in my district urging me to vote no on the proposal that would replace the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Anyone care to guess how many asked me to support it? Seven. Your voice really matters, folks!”

    A citizen asks Larsen about how to keep Social Security viable into the future.

    First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, Larsen represents the 2nd Congressional District of Washington state, which includes portions of Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties and all of Island and San Juan counties. Describing one of his top goals as “breaking down barriers to allow citizens to participate in government,” Larsen makes it a point to regularly get out and meet with his constituents as part of fostering an ongoing dialog with the people he represents.

    — Story and photos by Larry Vogel


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