Older Americans Act (OAA) programs provide assistance at the local, hands-on level that helps older Americans fulfill the desire we all share - to be able to remain as independent and productive as possible in our own homes and communities as we age. The Older Americans Act was first passed in 1965 and helps fund home and community-based services to improve the lives of older Americans. Services funded under the Older Americans Act include information and referral, congregate meals and Meals-on-Wheels, transportation, community-based long-term care, legal services, nursing home ombudsman, elder abuse identification and prevention, and senior community service jobs, as well as help for family caregivers.
Supportive and nutrition services are targeted to Americans age 60 and older. Community service jobs are targeted to Americans 55 and older. Emphasis is placed on assisting individuals with the greatest social or economic need, particularly low-income minority individuals and those living in rural areas. Voluntary contributions are requested and cost-sharing is allowed for some services.
All services, except the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), are administered by the U.S. Administration on Aging, headed by the Assistant Secretary for Aging in the Department of Health and Human Services. Services are funded through a network of 57 state agencies, some 660 Area Agencies on Aging, and are provided by thousands of local service organizations. The U.S. Department of Labor administers SCSEP through contracts with state agencies and 13 national organizations.
OLDER AMERICANS ACT REAUTHORIZATION
In 2006, Congress passed the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2006, and the President signed it into Public Law 109-365 on October 17. This legislation, which had bipartisan support, reauthorizes current Older Americans Act programs for five years, thus fulfilling the number one recommendation of the delegates to the December 2005 White House Conference on Aging. The 2006 legislation also expands the family caregiver support program to help older adults caring for adult children and caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer's disease; authorizes grants to improve transportation services, deliver mental health screening and treatment services, and encourage civic engagement activities; and it authorizes elder justice activities. In addition the Older Americans Act Amendments authorizes increased funding levels for the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Native American caregiver program. Unfortunately, it does not authorize increased funding for other OAA programs.
OLDER AMERICANS ACT FUNDING
The Older Americans Act has lost ground over the past 20 years due to our rapidly increasing frail, older population, those most in need of services, and relatively level federal funding that has not kept pace with inflation. Eligible seniors face waiting periods for some services in most states. President Bush's FY 2008 budget requests for the Administration on Aging and for the Department of Labor, which funds the Title V Senior Employment program, decrease funding for Older Americans Act programs. This comes at a time when additional resources are needed to provide home and community-based care for our growing elderly population, especially the over-85 group, and to keep up with inflation.
The President's FY 2008 request for the Administration on Aging of $1.381 million is a decrease of $32 million from current funding for Fiscal Year 2008. The President's budget request provides level-funding, which is in fact a cut, for important programs including congregate and home-delivered meals supportive services, assistance for family caregivers, long-term care ombudsmen, and prevention of elder abuse and neglect. In addition, the President's budget request eliminates funding for preventive health services ($21 million) and Alzheimer's demonstration grants ($11 million). Once again, the budget includes $28 million to fund the Administration's Choices for Independence demonstration projects. The FY 2009 request for $350,000,000 for Community Service Employment for Older Americans, Title V of the Older Americans Act, is a decrease of over $172 million from the FY 2008 appropriation of $522 million. Funding was increased in FY 2008 to take into account the increase in the minimum wage.
NATIONAL COMMITTEE POSITION
The National Committee commends Congress for passage of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2006, which reauthorizes and strengthens Older Americans Act programs both for today's seniors and the baby boomers who became eligible for services in 2006. As part of this reauthorization and in appropriations legislation, the National Committee supports substantial, across-the-board increases in federal funding for OAA programs. The Older Americans Act will require sustained funding increases, sufficient to meet the growth in our elderly population and to keep pace with inflation, in order to truly fulfill its promise of keeping older Americans as independent as possible in their homes and communities.
Government Relations and Public Policy Department, February 2008
The National Committee is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that acts in the interests of its membership through advocacy, education, services, grassroots efforts and the leadership of the board of directors and professional staff. The work of the National Committee is directed toward developing a secure retirement for all Americans.