U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with cosponsors U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), today introduced legislation to help Holocaust survivors access needed services, such as health care and nutritional services, without having to live in a nursing home or assisted living facility. ""Responding to Urgent Needs of Survivors of the Holocaust Act'' or the ""RUSH Act'' would add Holocaust survivors to the list of groups receiving priority for social services through the Older Americans Act (OAA).
"As survivors of terror and torture, these Holocaust survivors came to our country seeking the American Dream. They have enriched our nation and now they have special needs and would benefit from additional social service programs that will allow them to age in place in their current residences," said Senator Cardin. "I believe we have an obligation to provide them with access to the community support and services they need."
"I am honored to support the Holocaust survivors across our nation with the RUSH Act," Senator Kirk said. "Survivors who reside at home or at long-term care facilities have unique challenges, and our bill ensures their special needs are addressed."
"I believe that "Honor Thy Father and Mother' is a good commandment to live by and a good policy to govern by. More than 60 years later, Holocaust survivors who fled to the United States after experiencing incomprehensible and indescribable atrocities continue to age. We must honor them -- not just with words, but with deeds," Senator Mikulski said. "This legislation follows through on our commitment to these survivors by ensuring that the services and community-based care they need are available to help them live more independent and active lives."
Approximately 120,000 Holocaust survivors live in the United States, with an average age of 80. Nearly one-quarter are age 85 or older and three-in-five are women. Two-thirds of Holocaust survivors live alone, placing them at greater risk of institutionalization. In addition, more than half of all Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States after 1965 live below the federal poverty level and have few resources.
The RUSH Act would amend the OAA to establish preference to Americans who are Holocaust survivors. It would establish a point person within the Administration for Community Living to have responsibility for programs serving Holocaust survivors, and it would authorize transportation services for in-need populations to be funded through the OAA. The bill would also modify the OAA home delivered nutrition services provisions to ensure that Americans with religious, ethnic and dietary food restrictions receive the proper meals.
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) also has co-sponsored the Senate bill, and Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"As a nation that upholds the values of freedom, liberty, and justice, we have a moral obligation to acknowledge the plight and uphold the dignity of Holocaust survivors to ensure their well-being," said Representative Wasserman Schultz. "Our children's generation will be the last to know Holocaust survivors and hear their stories first hand. We must do all we can to honor their struggles and their lives by improving their access to transportation to get them where they need to go, and improve their home-care options so that they can have peace of mind. This bill does just that, and it's time to make it happen."
Organizations supporting the RUSH Act include: the Jewish Federations of North America, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the American Jewish Committee, the Survivor Initiative, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Anti-Defamation League.