Senators Collins and Casey’s Bill to Reauthorize Older Americans Act Signed into Law

The landmark law supports community-based and nutrition services for older adults and their caregivers, which are particularly important as our country works to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Washington, D.C.—Today, the Supporting Older Americans Act, bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Aging Committee, was signed into law.  Their legislation reauthorizes and strengthens the Older Americans Act (OAA), the landmark legislation focused on improving the wellbeing of the Nation’s seniors and their caregivers.

 

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.  Many of these programs, such as home-delivered nutrition services, have become even more important to seniors during the current coronavirus pandemic.

 

“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 was 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.”

 

“The Older Americans Act serves more than 10 million Americans each year, including 400,000 people throughout Pennsylvania. It represents our commitment to the generations who made us who we are today and lifts up the seniors who need our help the most. I’m pleased that the President signed it into law,” said Senator Casey.

 

“The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) welcomes the unanimous reauthorization of the Older Americans Act like a fresh breath of Spring,” said Debra Whitman, Chair of  LCAO, the coalition of national nonprofit organizations working on behalf of America’s older adults. “At a time of increasing threat to the health of our nation’s older adults, the passage of Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 is an important milestone.  The law provides much needed assistance for nutrition, transportation, support for caregivers, and help to prevent abuse and neglect, enabling our most vulnerable older adults to live safely in their homes and communities.”

 

“The Older Americans Act helps our nation’s most vulnerable, isolated and food insecure seniors remain healthier and safer, and we thank Chairman Collins and Ranking Member Casey for all the work they’ve done to provide leadership for its reauthorization that recognizes the extraordinary impact of the services it provides, including senior nutrition programs” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels America. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Senators and their colleagues in Congress to support the health, dignity and independence of the 11 million older Americans and their caregivers who depend on the OAA for years to come.”

 

"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.”

 

“Added flexibility is more essential than ever, in this time of crisis, to enable AAAs to meet the growing and changing needs of the population. We are pleased that the elimination of the 10 percent cap on serving grand families under the Family Caregiver Support Program is included in the Older Americans’ Act passage. This issue is important to Pennsylvania’s Area Agencies on Aging, and will allow us to better support seniors raising their grandchildren,”said Rebecca May-Cole, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

 

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 will:

 

·        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 2019, Senators Collins and Casey held an Aging Committee hearing to highlight the importance of reauthorizing the OAA.  In December, Senator Collins spoke on the Senate floor in support of the OAA’s passage.

 

Senators Collins and Casey’s bill is cosponsored by Senators 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.