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What is the Older Americans Act?
The Older Americans Act (OAA)is federal legislation that supports the social and nutrition services to Americans over age 60 since 1965. The stated purpose of the OAA is to ensure equal opportunity to the fair and free enjoyment of adequate income in retirement; the best possible physical and mental health services without regard to economic status; suitable housing; restorative and long term care; opportunity for employment; retirement in health, honor, and dignity, civic, cultural, educational and recreational participation and contribution; efficient community services; immediate benefit from proven research knowledge; freedom, independence, and the exercise of self-determination; and protection against abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
The programs included in the OAA have made a tremendous difference in the lives of seniors, and these programs will become increasingly important as our nation ages. It is especially critical that retired Americans have the support needed to make ends meet during times of economic hardship.
OAA supports the rights of seniors to live independently by funding home and community-based program to address isolation, in-home services, transportation, hunger, elder-abuse prevention and more. Funding for OAA programs has decreased by 18% over the past 20 years while the senior population has grown by 34%.
The Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016 passed by Congress reauthorized programs for FY 2017-through FY 2019. While this was a step in the right direction in protecting this important legislation, it’s just as critical that the OAA continues to be adequately funded. Unfortunately, the proposed federal budget currently eliminates most of the funding provided by OAA.
October 23, 2018
From Meals on Wheels America: As we settle into the new fiscal year, we want to congratulate you again on the work you’ve done to help secure a $10 million increase in federal funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and a $25 million increase for programs administered by the Administration for Community Living (ACL). We’re waiting for ACL to release information on how those funds will be allocated to each state, and we’ll make sure to update you as we learn more.
With OAA funding finalized, we shift our focus onto other federal legislative issues we’re monitoring that could affect your programs and the seniors you serve, such as charitable tax concerns, healthcare policy, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition programs, and the budget and appropriations process. Read on to learn more about these issues, or visit our new Legislative Action page in the Advocacy Center for more details here.
TOP ISSUES TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS FALL
1. OLDER AMERICANS ACT (OAA) REAUTHORIZATION
As we’ve shared previously, the OAA is thoroughly reviewed every few years – a process called “reauthorization” – creating the opportunity to extend and amend the programs and policies established by this law. The existing OAA law is authorized through September 30, 2019, leaving a little less than a year to make our case and push a new Congress to take action. We’ve been working alongside the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations – a coalition of 70+ national aging organizations – and other partners to advocate for a strong and timely reauthorization to shape our priorities as a network.
2. FARM BILL
The existing Farm Bill expired at the end of September without a reauthorization or extension, and little legislative progress has been made since we last reported. This means several small agricultural programs are currently unfunded, while other programs related to senior nutrition – including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) – have been left to operate at current funding and program levels for the time being.
3. PUBLIC CHARGE
We’ve heard from a number of Members asking about the Administration’s proposed changes to the “public charge” rule, a long-standing immigration rule used when determining if an individual will be allowed legal residency or a change in immigration status. Under this rule, the government can review which public benefits someone has used while in the U.S. and use this information to deny admission to the country or refuse an application for lawful permanent residency. The proposed changes – posted last week by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – expand the list of benefits that, if used, could impact an individual’s status. The list now includes SNAP, some low-income housing options, some subsidies for prescription medications, and other programs that could impact your clients. While home-delivered or congregate meal services are not included, there’s concern that seniors may be reluctant to participate in any community-based programs for fear it may negatively impact future residency or immigration status, or that of their families or caregivers.
September 6, 2018
Congress returned from its August recess period on Tuesday facing a challenging deadline. Only 9 legislative days remain before the current fiscal year ends on September 30, but lawmakers still need to pass all of the 12 annual spending bills that fund the government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. If any of these bills aren’t signed into law before the end of this month, Congress will either need to pass a continuing resolution – a temporary measure used to fund government programs at current levels for a limited amount of time – or risk a government shutdown.
As a reminder, the Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Program is funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-Ed) appropriations bill – one of those 12 outstanding spending bills. The full Senate passed its version of the Labor-HHS-Ed bill in late August as part of a combined spending package with the Defense bill (H.R. 6157), and the House Appropriations Committee passed its version earlier in the summer, both providing level funding for the OAA Nutrition Program for a total of $896.7 million. On Tuesday night, the House voted to go to Conference with the Senate, meaning that the two Chambers are now in the process of working fast and furiously to resolve their differences before Congress can pass a final FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Ed bill.
June 29, 2018
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-Ed) spending bill yesterday by a vote of 30-1. If enacted, this legislation would provide level funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Program (Congregate, Home-Delivered and Nutrition Services Incentive Program) at a total of $896,753,000. The next step in this process is for this appropriations bill to be debated and considered by the full Senate, which could take place later this summer.
WHAT’S IN THE BILL: As we shared earlier this week, the full House Appropriations Committee postponed the debate of its version of the Labor-HHS-Ed spending bill, which passed out of the Subcommittee on June 15. Below are some of the highlights within both the Senate and House Labor-HHS-Ed Appropriations bills surrounding federal programs that may impact your organization and the seniors you serve. Unless otherwise noted, the House and Senate proposed equal levels of funding.
FEDERAL PROGRAMS FY 2019 PROPOSED FUNDING LEVELS
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
-from Meals on Wheels America
June 26, 2018
The Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-Ed) approved its bipartisan Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations bill today. This legislation – which is the second largest appropriations bill after the Defense bill – would provide $179.3 billion for important domestic priorities overseen by the Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services (HHS) and other agencies. While HHS would receive $90.1 billion under this measure, the full bill text that includes funding details for programs authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) is not expected to be released until later this week.
The next step in this process is for the full Senate Appropriations Committee to debate and consider this legislation on Thursday at 10:30 AM EDT. You can watch a live broadcast of that full Committee markup here. We commend Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) for working together throughout this process and demonstrating a commitment to advancing a bipartisan spending bill.
Knowing there are still many steps to go before any final bill is signed into law, it’s important that we all continue to advocate for a $100 million increase for the OAA Nutrition Program over current levels.
May 29, 2018
As hearings on the Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget proceed, we ask the community to support continued funding for the Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS). The budget proposes to eliminate CNCS, the federal agency that administers three national Senior Corps programs that engage Americans in service: RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), Foster Grandparents, and Senior Companions.
Of specific concern to VANTAGE, the FY2019 Budget proposal seeks to eliminate the federally financed CNCS RSVP program that is funded under the Senior Corps program. Throughout the United States in 2017, Senior Corps programs enabled more than 270,000 senior volunteers to provide essential services to their communities at 50,000 locations. Local, county and state governments cannot afford to replace these services. Moreover, RSVP programs alone engaged over 230,000 adults over age 55 in service projects in more than 38,000 organizations that addressed national problems facing local communities. They are changing lives, locally and nationally.
Our VANTAGE RSVP program provides a significant cost-effective solution to address many unmet needs in our community. In 2017, our 300 volunteers provided 18,245 hours of service at 13 agencies. In Akron, more than 48 percent of the population lives below 200% of the poverty level, and more than half of the City’s children live below the poverty line. Without the help of nonprofit agencies served by VANTAGE RSVP, these individuals could not access basic needs, especially food. Our RSVP volunteers address food insecurity. They prepare and pack food for Meals on Wheels, deliver meals to clients, and provide wellness checks at the same time, thus enabling seniors to stay in their homes. Children also benefit from literacy tutoring, and healthy eating and physical activity programs under our RSVP CATCH kids club.
The CNCS Senior Corps programs, including RSVP, have demonstrated effective use of federal dollars to provide positive changes not only in the lives of hundreds of thousands of seniors but also to the agencies and communities they serve.
May 8, 2018
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to debate Farm Bill proposals that will make it more complicated for vulnerable older workers, caregivers, and others to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Millions of Americans are projected to lose the help they need to put food on the table.
SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. It is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.
Call your Representative and urge them to reject cuts and instead support efforts to strengthen SNAP for seniors and families.
April 6, 2018
The FY 2018 federal funding bill passed Congress and increases were provided to vital Older Americans Act (OAA) programs and services funded through the US Administration on Aging and delivered locally by organizations across the country.
There were increases to OAA Subtitles III B, C, D and E. This means that older adults will continue to receive in-home services, home-delivered and congregate meals, transportation, caregiver supports, evidence-based health and wellness programs and other essential services that enable them to maintain their health and independence for as long as possible.
Lawmakers rejected proposals from the Trump Administration to eliminate key federal programs that help low-income older adults meet their basic needs, find jobs to make ends meet, give back to their communities through volunteerism, receive one-on-one help understanding their Medicare and other benefits, and help them live independently at home and in the community.
March 9, 2018
The current stopgap spending bill providing federal funding for Meals on Wheels and other programs supporting seniors is set to expire on March 23, giving our national network and supporters fewer than two weeks to reinforce our key appropriations asks.
As a reminder, in any final FY 2018 funding agreement, we urge Congress to:
Reports from Capitol Hill indicate that the House of Representatives wants to consider a funding bill around March 15, meaning these next few days are critical to our call for increased funding for senior nutrition programs in FY 2018. Please take action now by writing to your Members of Congress today!
What Will be Impacted by the Proposed Budget?
How Can you Advocate
It is so simple! Write a letter-yes, an old-fashioned, pen to ink, handwritten or typed, send in the mail, LETTER!
Your elected officials! Click this link to find your elected officials and write them an actual letter! Writing letters in your own words is an efficient and effective way to influence Members of Congress. Since congressional offices receive only a handful of letters on most issues, each carriers real power.
And say what?
Tell them your story and how continued cuts will impact you and your family! Let them know how you, a neighbor, family member, or friend will be impacted by any cuts to funding! Let them know that all older Americans deserve the right and need access to nutritious food, job training opportunities, transportation, health care, heat, and more! Urge elected officials to increase funding to meet the growing population of older adults! Remember, they work for YOU!