Monday, May 23, 2011

One Away and the Older Americans Act

Authored by Marci Phillips, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, National Council on Aging

One in three older adults struggle with economic security, with annual incomes below $22,000, and millions more live right on the edge. They are forced to decide each day whether to pay for medicine, food, rent, or utilities. They live one bad break, one missed rent check, or one health problem away from a financial crisis.
Despite their struggles, their voices are unheard, and they face a frustrating system ill-equipped to respond to their complex needs.

In response, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) launched One Away, a national video advocacy campaign that gives voice to older adults who are struggling to make ends meet and mobilizes advocacy for policy change ( Through our work with the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment, and the Economic Security Initiative, we have proposed a series of policy goals to help older adults achieve economic security:
  • Fostering development of holistic, person-centered economic case management strategies to provide access to a comprehensive array of financial and social services.
  • Improving access to and coordination of public benefits for older adults in greatest need.
  • Strengthening the efficiency and effectiveness of systems and policies designed to empower and assist vulnerable seniors.
The primary vehicle we have identified to achieve these goals is the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), scheduled to occur later this year. NCOA collaborated with Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) on “A Blueprint for Increasing the Economic Security of Older Adults: Recommendations for the Older Americans Act”, which details our OAA proposals, including defining economic security and establishing it as a goal of the Act; supporting use of local measures of economic security to plan, evaluate and target services; and supporting research, evaluation and dissemination of best practices in measuring economic security and implementing economic case management.

The roadmap for moving reauthorization this year is not entirely clear, and the timetable could easily slip. However, the One Away campaign has been designed to be flexible in order to leverage advocacy on a variety of elder economic security vehicles. Each month, we focus on a particular aspect of elder economic security to drive our advocacy and our messaging: this month the theme is health; next month it will be housing.

Perhaps the most pressing challenge we currently face is the potential for the current deficit reduction debate to turn back investments in key services and benefits for vulnerable older adults. We have already seen SCSEP, the only federal program providing job training and placement services for low-income older adults, slashed by 45 percent, and the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program cut by more than 50 percent. Proposals for next year’s funding include cuts to Medicaid, SNAP and LIHEAP.

Visit today to learn how you can join the campaign and lend your voice to protecting and enhancing the economic security of older Americans.

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