Senate Passes Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act

Landmark law supports community-based and nutrition services for older adults and their caregivers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Supporting Older Americans Act, bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.). The legislation reauthorizes the Older Americans Act (OAA) for another five years. The safety-net program was first enacted in 1965 and ensures seniors have access to needed services as they age. Alaska is slated to receive approximately $4.8 million in federal funding for Fiscal Year 2020. This reauthorization includes a seven percent increase in program funding for Native American and Alaska Native elders, and an additional $500,000 annually for technical assistance for tribal organizations to implement OAA programs.

“The Senate’s unanimous passage of the Supporting Older Americans Act is a big win for seniors in Alaska and across the country, and shows that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are in fact working together on important issues affecting our citizens,” said Senator Sullivan. “Going back more than fifty years, low-income senior citizens have relied on the Older Americans Act programs for services that improve their quality of life and, ultimately, help them live longer. I’m glad to cosponsor a reauthorization that modernizes the Act with new technologies, resources and recommended reforms that will better meet the needs of Alaska’s seniors, and includes a steady increase in funding levels to match our growing population of elders.” 

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 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.

The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.),  Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). 

The reauthorization is supported by more than 128 organizations, including the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, the American Association of Retired Persons (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.

The bill has been sent to the House for consideration.

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