Friday, October 30, 2009

National Academy of Social Insurance Cites WOW in Report on How to Strengthen Social Security

Today at a briefing on the Hill, the National Academy of Social Insurance released a new report, “Fixing Social Security: Adequate Benefits, Adequate Financing”. This report outlines potential strategies to enhance benefit adequacy and ensure long-term solvency for Social Security.

Virginia Reno, Vice President of Income Security Policy at NASI, cited the Elder Index during this morning’s event. The Elder Index is referenced in the report’s discussion on benefit adequacy, particularly referencing that average Social Security benefits fall short of what’s needed to make ends meet in retirement.

Also discussed at the briefing was the disproportionate reliance of women and communities of color on Social Security income. Two out of five older women relies on Social Security income alone. Elders living on Social Security alone are often forced to make difficult sacrifices between basic necessities, like food and prescription medicine. This report provides policymakers with viable options for ensuring Social Security is available and better for future generations.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reflections from the Field: OLDER is BOLDER

Stacy Sanders, Associate Director of the Initiative, is our guest blogger this week. Find out what she has been up to below!

With November just around the corner, it seems the perfect time to reflect on a blitz of field activity for the Elder Economic Security Initiative (Initiative) this fall. As Associate Director, I have the honor and pleasure to visit WOW’s state partners and participate as the Elder Economic Security Initiative unfolds in their communities.

This September, I traveled to present to the West Virginia Senate Health and Human Resource Committee and the newly established Economic Security and Long-Term Care Taskforce. With funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, this taskforce will bring together stakeholders from across the state to ensure access to long-term care services and supports for elders and disabled persons. The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy is a key partner in this effort along with many others, including the Senate Committee staff, Community Voices and Vision Shared. The taskforce will draw from the findings of the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index to establish policy priorities and opportunities for reform related to long-term care and to identify opportunities to better coordinate services in West Virginia’s rural communities. These efforts will bring to the forefront the critical link between economic security and affordable long-term care services and supports.

Also in September, I journeyed to Wisconsin where WOW partnered with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) to bring a series of financial training workshops to college-age and mid-career women. These workshops incorporated the concepts of “income adequacy” “self-sufficiency” and “economic security” – all of which are critical to WOW’s ongoing efforts to change how policymakers, the media, advocates, service providers and the public-at-large conceptualize and measure economic need. WOW also took part in a legislative seminar hosted by the Wisconsin Women’s Network to educate state policymakers on the Initiative’s successes to date. WOW seeks to empower and educate individuals as well as transform systems. Both are critical to advancing positive social change for elders and their families. This set of Wisconsin events illustrates just how the Initiative makes this possible.

An October trip to the annual convention of the New York Statewide Senior Action Council, Inc. rounded out this year’s travels where the convention theme “OLDER is BOLDER” most certainly rang true! WOW joined its research partner the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston in presenting draft Elder Index data to volunteer advocates from across the state. In New York, the Initiative will be a vehicle to inspire and strengthen grassroots advocacy in critical areas of the state. The Elder Index will provide data to help advocates across the state quantify the economic realities facing far too many older adults. For me, this last trip reinforced just how critical it is to engage senior advocates and bring their voice to issues affecting low-income elder in their communities.

As always, I return from these trips re-energized and inspired! This last set of trips also has me re-convinced of the value of an economic security framework for social change.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything

Today, the Center for American Progress (CAP), in collaboration with Maria Shriver, released The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything. The report outlines how government, businesses, and faith-based institutions are responding to changing demographics in the workplace, namely the increasing number of women workers. The report outlines and how to create better opportunities for women and men in the workplace.

At a luncheon at CAP this afternoon, the first lady of California spoke about the shift from men to women as the majority of workers in just one generation. Shriver sees this report as something that will improve the labor force both for employees and employers. Women now make up half of the workforce and this transformation is changing our country by making more women breadwinners for their family. .Shriver makes clear that though the title of the report is woman specific, the report takes into the account the views of both women and men and how similar their opinions are of what needs to be done to improve work conditions.

You can view the full report HERE and the Executive Summary HERE.

Workplace flexibility is an issue discussed on numerous occasions in the report and is directly connected to caregivers, both of children and elders. The inability to adequately care of a loved one due to work obligations causes many adults unneeded stress and Shriver stated that it is every American’s right to request a flexible work schedule.

This marks the first day of a week of presentations and media coverage of the report. It is featured on the cover of the latest issue of TIME Magazine and will be discussed on all NBC Network stations, including on this week’s Meet the Press.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bills Considered in U.S. Congress to Support Elder Economic Security

Two pieces of legislation are moving through Congress that have the potential to affect the economic security of America’s elders. The Medicare Premium Fairness Act of 2009 (H.R. 3631) passed the House last week and is now in the hands of the Senate. The bill would stop the upcoming 2010 increase in Medicare Part B premiums for 11 million seniors. Given the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) freeze for the next two years, the House decided it unfair to raise medical out-of-pocket costs for seniors whose Social Security benefits will not increase. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) shows that health care costs, including the Medicare Part B premium and other coverage expenses, are the number two out-of-pocket cost for seniors. Holding the Medicare Part B Premium steady will support elders living on limited incomes, many of whom already make difficult choices among basic needs, like prescription drugs and home energy costs.

The Emergency Citizens Relief Act of 2009 (H.R. 3597 and S. 1685) is now being debated in the House. This bill would give elders a $250 payment in 2010 to partly compensate for the COLA freeze. The Elder Index demonstrates that elders living on Social Security alone are unable to meet their basic needs. A boost in Social Security payments would assist elders who are barely making ends meet.

Both bills would somewhat alleviate the financial struggle that many elders face today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Initiative on the Road!

Over the past two weeks, WOW traveled to both West Virginia and Wisconsin to present on the Elder Economic Security Initiative. In West Virginia, the Gerontology Institute at UMASS-Boston joined WOW in presenting draft Elder Index data to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and its stakeholders. The West Virginia event provided a great opportunity to introduce the framework and tools behind the Initiative and begin preliminary discussions on policy priorities to promote elder economic security in West Virginia.

Last week, WOW traveled to Wisconsin to facilitate several events with our partner, the Wisconsin Women’s Network (WWN). Along with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, WOW and the WWN held two financial planning workshops, one for college age women and one for mid-career women. WOW and WWN also hosted a legislative seminar in Madison where updated 2009 Elder Index numbers were released for the state and select counties. To find out more, check out the media coverage HERE.

Both events were a fabulous opportunity to carry forward the message of promoting economic security for elders and their families.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

WOW Releases Health Care Resource Guide

Progress continues on health care reform and Congress is steadily working through several pieces of legislation. This week, WOW released a health care resource guide, “Health Care & Economic Security” that speaks to the current legislative process and provides data and information on how health care costs impact economic security for workers, elders and families. WOW supports health care reform that lowers costs, expands coverage, and puts more low-income elders and families on a pathway to economic security.

According to the Elder Index, health care is the second highest out- of- pocket expense for elders, after housing. The Senate Finance committee’s proposed bill would seek to help elders by lowering their premiums. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) version seeks to establish a long-term care insurance program as mapped out in the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. What’s included in the final legislation, across House and Senate committees, will be determined in the coming months.

Read more about health care reform and how you can get involved in this month’s, “Health Care & Economic Security” resource guide today!