Collins Bill to Reauthorize Older Americans Act Passes Senate Unanimously

The landmark law supports community-based and nutrition services for older adults and their caregivers and is critical to improving the lives of seniors

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Supporting Older Americans Act.  The bipartisan legislation, authored by U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chairman of the Aging Committee, would reauthorize and strengthen the Older Americans Act (OAA), the nation’s preeminent law focused on the wellbeing of seniors.  The bill has now been sent to the House for its consideration before heading to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

 

Since 1965, the OAA has supported and improved the lives of seniors—particularly those who are low-income—through programs that promote nutrition (e.g. Meals on Wheels), improve transportation options, support caregivers, offer employment and community service opportunities, and prevent abuse and neglect.  This critical law was last reauthorized in 2016.

 

“For more than half a century, the Older Americans Act has served as a lifeline for millions of seniors by enriching their lives and improving their overall health,” said Senator Collins.  “This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that the OAA continues to match the goals we set to permit seniors to age with dignity, respect, and community.  As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, it is one of my highest priorities to get this bill across the finish line to strengthen the OAA’s programs while providing more flexibility for states to meet local needs.  I am pleased that the Senate unanimously passed our legislation, and I urge the House to approve it swiftly so that it can be enacted into law.”

  

“On behalf of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), we appreciate the bipartisan, and bicameral proposal to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA),” said Debra Whitman, Chair of LCAO, the coalition of national nonprofit organizations working on behalf of America’s older adults.  “We enthusiastically endorse the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020, H.R. 4334, and look forward to its passage to support our growing aging population and help assure their healthy longevity.”

  

“The Supporting Older Americans Act builds on OAA’s powerful legacy of providing our loved ones with the support they need to live independently and with dignity as they age,” said Megan O’Reilly, Vice President for AARP Government Affairs, Federal Health and Family. “Over the years, OAA has helped so many Mainers and older Americans across the nation stay in their communities among friends, neighbors, and family through caregiver support, home-delivered meals, and transportation. AARP commends Special Committee on Aging Chair Susan Collins for her leadership in ushering the bipartisan reauthorization of this legislation across the finish line in the Senate.”

 

“I want to thank Senator Collins for her leadership to ensure the key elements of the Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act were included as part of the OAA reauthorization,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer's Association chief public policy officer and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) executive director. “Thanks to this important bipartisan work, all Americans living with Alzheimer’s will have access to the same high-quality care and support services — regardless of age.” 

 

“n4a is thrilled that the Senate has passed the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020,” said n4a CEO Sandy Markwood. “This bill is the result of months of negotiations among Senate and House leadership, as well as aging policy advocates and n4a members here in Washington and around the country. For more than 50 years, the Older Americans Act has funded services that support older adults and enhance their ability to continue living in the community. These programs reduce the likelihood that older adults will experience hunger, malnutrition, social isolation and elder abuse. The Older Americans Act also supports the continued ability of older adults and their caregivers to access services that provide transportation, caregiver supports, meals, in-home services and so many more programs that are essential to community living.”

 

"Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act is a great victory for the aging services network and those we serve, said Dyan Walsh, MSW, Executive Director of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Maine.  “There are many important provisions in the bill, not the least of which is the focus on research to study the negative consequences of social isolation and loneliness which impacts so many rural older adults.   We look to the future with a renewed focus to integrate innovative strategies that will advance our mission to support communities and those who are the most vulnerable.”

 

Administered by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), the OAA authorizes an array of services through a network of 56 State Units on Aging and more than 600 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) serving older Americans throughout the nation.

 

In the last year alone, OAA programs:

 

·         Served more than 700,000 caregivers; and

 

·         Provided seniors across the country with 358 million meals.

 

In addition to supporting seniors, OAA programs are cost effective.  The average cost of serving one senior Meals on Wheels for the entire year is $2,828, compared to the average of $2,424 it costs to stay for a single day in the hospital and the approximately $2,530 it costs to stay just ten days in in a semi-private room in a nursing home.  By providing seniors with a hot meal, the Older Americans Act improves nutrition and keeps seniors out of the hospital, allowing them to age in their homes and communities.  In fact, every $1 invested into the Older Americans Act generates $3 to help seniors stay at home and out of the hospital through low-cost, community-based services.

 

Specifically, the bipartisan bill would:

 

·         Reauthorize the Older Americans Act for five years with funding levels that better meet the growing needs, including a 7 percent increase in the initial year, and 6 percent increase annually for the remainder of the authorization;

·         Extend the RAISE Family Caregivers Act for one additional year;

·         Extend the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Council for one year;

·         Improve the availability of transportation resources to seniors;

·         Enhance flexibility for states to better address the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren;

·         Ensure that those living with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease are included in key OAA services;

·         Increase the focus on addressing detrimental impacts of social isolation;

·         Advance support for age-friendly communities.

·         Improve elder abuse prevention activities through increased outreach and education activities.

·         Increase transparency of home-modification opportunities for eligible older adults.

·         Upgrade data collection methods to understand unmet need in nutrition programs.

·         Promote multigenerational programming.

·         Bolster innovation in the OAA through thoughtful evaluation of demonstrations and existing programs.

 

In May, Senator Collins chaired an Aging Committee hearing to highlight the importance of reauthorizing the OAA.  In December, she spoke on the Senate floor in support of the OAA’s passage.

 

Senator Collins’ bill is cosponsored by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Doug Jones (D-AL),  Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rick Scott (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

 

This reauthorization is supported by more than 128 organizations including the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, AARP, the National Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), Advancing States, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP), National Alliance for Caregiving, Meals on Wheels America, the Jewish Federations of North America, National Council on Aging (NCOA), and the Alzheimer’s Association.

 

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