The nation’s pre-eminent coalition representing older Americans supports President Biden’s American Jobs Plan “as a bold step in the right direction for seniors.” The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), currently chaired by NCPSSM, this week urged Congress to enact the President’s plan, “so that older Americans will feel the benefits across many areas of their lives — from housing to health to caregiving.” The plan includes $400 billion in new spending for long-term care for the elderly and disabled, the second highest allocation of funds after ‘Transportation.’
Support for seniors is part of President Biden’s expansive view of “infrastructure,” which he explains “has always evolved to meet the needs and aspirations of the American people.” Those needs and aspirations include older Americans who have contributed so much to our economy and enriched our lives.
The $400 billion in funding for older and disabled Americans goes toward home and community-based services (HCBS). It will help millions of seniors to receive long-term care in the comfort of their homes and communities instead of in nursing homes. The data show that HCBS is safer than nursing home care, with better mental and physical health outcomes. The American Jobs Act also will create new and better jobs for caregivers, predominantly women of color who have been “underpaid and undervalued for too long.”
“It’s expanded services for seniors. It’s for homecare workers who help seniors to stay in their homes… saving Medicaid hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.” – President Biden, 4/6/21
Seniors will benefit from the infrastructure plan in other life-changing ways. The American Jobs Plan contains $85 billion in sorely-needed funds to improve public transportation. Many seniors rely on public transit for shopping, banking, and medical appointments. Yet, one transportation advocacy group estimated that more than 15 million seniors live in communities where public transit is “poor or nonexistent.” We believe that some of the infrastructure funding for transportation should specifically benefit seniors under the Older Americans Act.
Housing is another crucial infrastructure issue for seniors. The American Jobs Act dedicates $213 billion to affordable housing. Some of that funding should go toward the Section 202 program, which finances supportive housing for low-income seniors – and provides much-needed rent subsidies, too.
Of course, 21st century seniors not only need roofs over their heads, but broadband internet access to connect their homes to the wider world. Seniors without reliable internet access can become disconnected from family and community, and unable to conduct crucial transactions online. Congress can ensure that some of this funding helps seniors better access the internet – including WiFi hotspots in underserved areas.
As the President’s plan is taken up by Congress, LCAO will continue to urge lawmakers to ensure that the American Jobs Act addresses the transportation, housing, broadband access, and caregiving needs of older people. As NCPSSM president and LCAO chairman Max Richtman said, “Just as the President’s American Jobs Plan will rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, it must build a better foundation for society as a whole by fortifying services for all of us as we age.”