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Congress Renews Older Americans Act

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 28, 2016 2:01 PM

In an important step to take care of senior citizens, Congress reauthorized the Older Americans Act, a comprehensive bill providing additional services and programs for aging adults. While this is a long-awaited and positive move to take care of our elders, the government may still need to figure out how to pay for it all.

Here's what the Older Americans Act promises to do, and the steps left to fund the program.

What Does the Act Do?

Originally passed in 1965 to provide community social services to older persons, the Older Americans Act (OAA) established the federal Administration on Aging (AOA) and provides grant money to states to fund "community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging." The AOA administers services through 56 state agencies, 629 local area agencies, and nearly 20,000 service providers nationwide.

Perhaps its most well known service is Meals on Wheels, which provides food to adults who cannot leave their homes. Beyond reducing incidents of malnutrition, volunteers can interact with senior citizens on a daily basis, providing comfort, compassion, and consistent checks on an older person's health.

Will the Act Be Able to Do It?

Like all federal programs, the Older Americans Act relies on federal funding, which is determined on an annual basis. Some are skeptical that the Act will get all of the funds it needs. As Howard Gleckman wrote in Forbes:

"While many OAA programs are critical to the well-being of seniors, funding for most of them has been flat or even decreasing for years. From 2010-2014 the US population of those 75 and older- the ages at which people are most likely to need personal assistance- increased by 10 percent, from about 16.4 million 18.2 million. Yet funding for all programs under the OAA fell from $2.3 billion to less than $1.9 billion over that time."

So while reauthorizing the OAA was a good first step, there are a few more that need to follow to make sure elder Americans are truly cared for.

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