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Bonamici, Katko, Wild, Stefanik Lead Bipartisan Call for $1.1B to Fund Programs for Older Americans During COVID-19

August 25, 2020
Press Release

 

WASHINGTON, DC [08/25/2020] – Today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), John Katko (R-NY), Susan Wild (D-PA), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) led 92 of their colleagues in calling for the next COVID-19 relief package to include $1.1 billion for programs that support older Americans.

 

Seniors continue to be disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a dramatic increase in demand for programs funded by the Older Americans Act (OAA). The Members of Congress are advocating for an additional $1.1 billion in OAA funding, including $750 million to support meal delivery through OAA Nutrition Services.

 

“With the closure of congregate meal sites and the steep increase in newly homebound older adults, there is now a higher demand for OAA programs, such as home-delivered meals and other community-based supportive services,” the members wrote. “COVID-19 has also magnified existing disparities for low-income older adults, underscoring the need for funding and programming to appropriately target those with the greatest need. As we work to address COVID-19 related racial and ethnic disparities, it is critical to guarantee that nutrition and supportive services reach communities of color, including those with disproportionately high infection and death rates.”

 

Since the pandemic began, 93 percent of Area Agencies on Aging have reported seeing more clients, and Meals on Wheels America members are serving an average of 77 percent more meals to 47 percent more seniors. Demand has also increased for caregiver support programs, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, and telephone wellness checks.

 

“We commend Representatives Bonamici, Katko, Wild and Stefanik for their leadership and the bipartisan group of 92 Representatives who joined them in calling for critical emergency funding to support Older Americans Act services and programs,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “The disproportionate and devastating effects of COVID-19 on older adults have led to a sustained increase in demand for these vital lifelines, exacerbating the unmet need that already existed pre-pandemic. The requested funding would buoy those Meals on Wheels programs on the front line combatting senior hunger and isolation in their communities and help ensure that our nation’s most vulnerable older adults receive the nutrition they need to stay safe at home through the pandemic.” 

 

“The National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs totally supports this bipartisan, bicameral effort to provide another needed infusion of emergency funding for Older Americans Act services and programs,” said Bob Blancato, Executive Director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP). “Once again, Rep. Bonamici has stepped up to take the lead on behalf of older Americans. The prior $1.1 billion in emergency funding that has been provided was in response to the dramatic increase in demand for services caused by the pandemic. That demand will continue as long as the pandemic does and no one knows its duration. These funds requested will be well spent and just as importantly, will be entirely spent.”

 

“n4a deeply appreciates the bipartisan effort led by Representatives Bonamici, Katko, Stefanik and Wild to ensure that millions of older Americans have the ongoing nutritional and supportive services they need to stay safely at home as the health and economic emergency from the coronavirus pandemic persists. We urge congressional leaders to act quickly to ensure that older adults across the country have access to the healthy food, social engagement, in-home services and the other vital supports they need to stay safe and independent during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis,” said Sandy Markwood, CEO of National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a).  “Our Area Agency on Aging and Title VI Native American aging program 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 need help to stay safe at home.”

 

The full letter can be found here and below.

 

In addition to Bonamici, Katko, Wild, and Stefanik, the letter was signed by: Representatives Ted Deutch, Brian Fitzpatrick, Adam Smith, Jamie Raskin, Marcia L. Fudge, Bennie G. Thompson, Danny K. Davis, Nydia M. Velázquez, Peter A. DeFazio, David B. McKinley P.E., Bobby L. Rush, Donna E. Shalala, Gwen Moore, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Al Lawson, Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, Jesús G. "Chuy" García. Jackie Walorski, David Trone, Donald M. Payne, Jr., John B. Larson, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Linda T. Sánchez, André Carson, Peter Welch, Conor Lamb, Cedric L. Richmond, Daniel T. Kildee, Rodney Davis, David N. Cicilline, Ruben Gallego, Jahana Hayes, Dina Titus, Debbie Dingell, Doris Matsui, Abigail D. Spanberger, Katie Porter, James R. Langevin, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Denny Heck, Bill Foster, Josh Gottheimer, Susie Lee, Jefferson Van Drew, Ted W. Lieu, Haley Stevens, Dusty Johnson, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Earl Blumenauer, Abby Finkenauer, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Sylvia R. Garcia, John Yarmuth, Thomas R. Suozzi, Adriano Espaillat, Dave Loebsack, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr., Bill Flores, John Garamendi, Joe Neguse, Ann Kirkpatrick, Dr. James R. Baird, Mark Pocan, Terri A. Sewell, Lori Trahan, Andy Kim, Matt Cartwright, Tom O'Halleran, Steve Cohen, Vicente Gonzalez, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Alcee L. Hastings, Andy Levin, G. K. Butterfield, Joseph D. Morelle, James P. McGovern, Michael T. McCaul, Chellie Pingree, Diana DeGette, Val B. Demings, J. Luis Correa, Rick Larsen, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Jackie Speier, Stephen F. Lynch, Susan A. Davis, Chris Pappas, Judy Chu, Raúl M. Grijalva, and Jared Huffman.

 

A bipartisan update to the Older Americans Act was signed into law in March.

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

 

As Congress considers additional relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you to make nutrition programs for older adults a priority. Specifically, we request that the next COVID-19 relief package include $1.1 billion in funding for Older Americans Act (OAA) programs, including $750 million for OAA Nutrition Services to support the delivery of nutritious meals to older adults throughout the country.

 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were important steps in responding to the increased demand for OAA programs. We appreciate your leadership in providing those resources, but additional funding is needed to continue providing vital services to seniors across the country.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately harming older adults. With the closure of congregate meal sites and the steep increase in newly homebound older adults, there is now a higher demand for OAA programs, such as home-delivered meals and other community-based supportive services. According to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), 93 percent of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) have reported serving more clients since the pandemic began, and 69 percent of AAAs saw an increase in demand for their supportive services. In addition, Meals on Wheels America members are serving an average of 77 percent more meals to 47 percent more seniors since March, with virtually all programs experiencing an increase in the cost of providing services. According to n4a, AAAs reported a 52 percent increase in demand for their caregiver support programs, a 32 percent increase in demand for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, and an 84 percent increase in demand for telephone wellness checks, which may be the only form of contact for socially isolated, homebound older adults.

 

Even prior to the pandemic, an estimated 5.3 million older adults experienced food insecurity and more than 17.4 million lived alone, putting them at greater risk of being socially isolated. COVID-19 has also magnified existing disparities for low-income older adults, underscoring the need for funding and programming to appropriately target those with the greatest need. As we work to address COVID-19 related racial and ethnic disparities, it is critical to guarantee that nutrition and supportive services reach communities of color, including those with disproportionately high infection and death rates.

 

We urge you build on past Congressional support for senior meal delivery and other critical aging services by including $1.1 billion in funding for OAA programs, including $750 million for OAA Nutrition Services, in the next COVID-19 relief bill. The senior nutrition programs and other targeted efforts to address social isolation and older adult safety are extremely important for our communities at this challenging time. We also urge you to include funding in the relief bill for sufficient supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing materials for the social services staff, health care workers, and caregivers who provide these services and for the senior adults who receive them. Thank you again for your ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of our older Americans as we work to advance a continued legislative response to COVID-19.

 

Sincerely,

 

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