Collins, Gillibrand Lead Bipartisan Call for Funding for OAA Programs In Next COVID-19 Package to Help Older Adults

The Senators are calling for the inclusion of $1.1 billion in funding for Older Americans Act (OAA) programs, including $750 million in funding for nutrition services

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chairman of the Aging Committee, and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the committee, led a group of 16 Senators in calling for the inclusion of $1.1 billion in funding for Older Americans Act (OAA) programs, including $750 million in funding for the OAA nutrition services, in the next coronavirus relief package.  The funding would provide grants to states, territories, and tribes to help support the delivery of nutritious meals for older adults throughout the country.  The letter was also signed by Senator Angus King (I-ME).


Senator Collins authored the 2020 reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), the landmark law supporting seniors and their caregivers.  As the Chairman of the Aging Committee and the Senator representing the oldest state by median age, Senator Collins has made it a priority to ensure seniors continue to have access to Meals on Wheels and other federal nutrition programs during this crisis.  Senator Collins supported the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, legislation that provided $250 million for OAA nutrition programs, and helped author the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the landmark emergency economic relief package that included an additional $500 million for OAA nutrition programs.


“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, the Chairman of the Aging Committee.  “Earlier this year, I authored the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which boosted funding for all of the critical OAA programs by seven percent.  Given the ongoing pandemic and the increased demand on OAA programs, particularly for nutrition services, the next coronavirus relief package must include additional funding for OAA programs to support older adults.”


“Before the pandemic, more than 5 million older adults experienced food insecurity and more than 17.4 million lived alone.  Now, as the majority of older adults have been required to self-isolate for months in order to keep themselves safe and healthy, the need for essential nutrition resources and programs has grown exponentially,” said Senator Gillibrand.  “It is our job as public servants to protect our most vulnerable and we must ensure that low-income older adults do not go hungry.  Bolstering OAA programs in the next relief package with significant funding and resources is a vital step to address the unique barriers they face.  I’m proud to lead this call for emergency funding so that everyone has food on the table during these challenging times.”


In a letter, the Senators urged Senate leadership to provide additional emergency funding to meet the increased demand for the Older Americans Act Nutrition Services, as well as the caregiver support program, the long-term care ombudsman program to address the crisis in nursing homes, and targeted efforts to address social isolation among older adults.


In addition to Senators Collins, Gillibrand, and King, the letter was signed by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).


The need for emergency relief funding for nutrition programs for older adults is a priority for leading food security for older adult groups.  The Senators’ letter has received support from Meals on Wheels America, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP), and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a):


“We applaud Senator Gillibrand and Senator Collins for leading this effort and the 14 senators who joined them in an urgent request for additional emergency funding to combat senior hunger and isolation,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America.  “Pre-pandemic, Meals on Wheels programs across the country had waiting lists for services due largely to insufficient funding.  The coronavirus and related stay-at-home orders have quickly increased the number of homebound seniors requesting this vital lifeline, greatly exacerbating the already-existing unmet need.  Thank you again to the Senators for their longstanding support and work to ensure our nation’s most vulnerable seniors are healthy and nourished throughout this pandemic and beyond.”


“We commend Senator Gillibrand and Senator Collins and the co-signers of their letter for recognizing a reality missed in the original HEALS Act.  The pandemic has not ended, neither should funding for key aging service programs,” said Bob Blancato, Executive Director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Service Programs.  “Nutrition services under the Older Americans Act have been essential for millions of seniors during the pandemic.  Demand has spiked across the country. Nutrition providers tell us that emergency money already provided could be exhausted by Labor Day.  We cannot let this happen.” 


“n4a deeply appreciates the leadership of Senators Gillibrand and Collins to ensure that millions of older adults have access to healthy food, social engagement, in-home services and the other vital supports they need to stay safe and independent during COVID-19,” said Sandy Markwood, CEO of National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a).  “Our Area Agency on Aging members develop, coordinate and deliver these aging services at the local level and they tell us that the Families First and CARES Acts funding won’t last much longer, yet the increased number of older adults they are serving still very much require help.  We urge Congress to provide continued emergency funding to support this vulnerable population of older adults.” 


Click HERE to read the letter.