Friday, March 18, 2011

Why CLASS? It’s a Matter of Luck and Long-Term Care.

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee hosted a hearing on the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, a voluntary long-term care insurance program designed to help today's workers afford home and community-based long-term care. St. Patrick's Day seems a fitting time for such a hearing given that much of long-term care comes down to luck for Americans and their families.

The luckiest among us will never suffer a catastrophic health event or accident that leads one to need assistance, with grocery shopping, transportation, bathing, toileting or the like, to stay at home. The luckiest will not manage multiple health conditions in old age causing limited mobility and access to the community. Those less lucky may have some long-term care needs, but will have the resources needed to cover the cost of that care and will access what's available through the private market. WOW's Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) measures what it costs to afford such services, ranging from 6 to 36 hours of home-based services per week in a given state. For instance, in Minnesota, the Elder Index demonstrates that home and community-based long-term care costs from $7,000 to $46,000 per year depending on the level of care required.

Perhaps Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) described it best when, at today's hearing, he said that CLASS would "serve a terrifying unmet need..." Today, 10 million Americans need long-term care services and supports, with 15 million expected to need care by the year 2020. The reality is that most of today's workers and families cannot afford the staggering cost of long-term care. The CLASS program was designed to buffer these costs through a voluntary payroll tax - one that will require no use of federal tax dollars. Further, the CLASS benefit is projected to reduce the federal deficit by $86 billion over the next ten years and save federal and state Medicaid costs.

We need to keep CLASS, both to address the growing long-term care crisis and as a matter of cost savings. More importantly, we need to ensure workers and employers are educated on the program and take advantage of this innovative option. More enrollees will help the program remain affordable for working Americans and fiscally strong over the long term. Ensuring access to affordable long-term care is fundamental to building economic security for persons with disabilities and elders.

Sadly, we will not all be among the luckiest, and so we all have a stake in safeguarding CLASS.

For more on the CLASS program, visit Advance CLASS.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Because We're Stronger Together

Last week, I attended a briefing hosted by Generations United (GU) and co-sponsored by WOW on why Social Security is a crucial program for Americans of all ages. Since it is generally referred to as a program for retirees, its purpose of building economic security for other groups, such as children and widows, is sometimes overlooked. However, according to GU, cuts to Social Security would harm 6.5 million children.

What made the briefing so powerful were the personal stories shared by Social Security beneficiaries. Rep. Jan Schakowky (D-IL) shared how Social Security helped her son and his family get by after her daughter-in-law passed away. Morrisella Middleton, now a grandmother, discussed how Social Security was there for her mother decades ago when her father suddenly passed away. Furthermore, Social Security continues to be there for Morisella now as she raises two grandchildren on her own, since her daughter is no longer alive. I encourage you to check out GU’s report, “Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies.”  The report features the stories of both these women and numerous other Americans.

The fight to strengthen Social Security is more than just an elder advocate fight. Though the majority of beneficiaries are retirees, to solely focus on this group would forego the important opportunity of a intergenerational effort for adequate Social Security benefits that allow so many to make ends meet. A united front is hard to ignore – because, in fact, we are stronger together.

Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Friday, March 4, 2011

Valuable Employment Service for Seniors Under Attack

What would you do if you couldn’t make ends meet in retirement? Like many Americans, you’d probably return to the workforce. But what if you needed help finding a job? Where would you turn? Thankfully, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is there to help seniors in need by providing valuable training to help them gain employment.

As we know from the Elder Index, it takes about $20,326 for an elder renter to make ends meet in retirement. If a senior cannot make ends meet, he or she may choose to go back to work if they are able. SCSEP helps low-income seniors by providing immediate employment. The participants earn minimum wage while providing much needed services in their communities.

Unfortunately, like many public assistance programs, SCSEP is under attack in the federal budget debate.
Although it has historically enjoyed strong bipartisan support, the House budget reduces SCSEP funding from $825 million to $300 million. This creates a crisis for tens of thousands of seniors, many of whom are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. As shown by a recent survey of SCSEP participants done by Experience Works, participants rely on SCSEP to make ends meet:
      • Nearly half (46%) of SCSEP participants say they sometimes have to choose between paying rent, purchasing food or purchasing medications.
      • Half (50 %) need to keep working so they don’t lose their homes or apartments.
      • 43 % are looking for work now because they were laid off from their previous positions.
      • 64 % have been looking for work one year or longer.  

      Help stop cuts to valuable programs for low-income seniors and their families. Send a letter to your representatives today to voice your concern for the federal budget cuts. We must show Congress how much these programs and services help low and middle-income families make ends meet.

      Maggie Flowers
      Field Manager
      Elder Economic Security Initiative