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Senate Authorizes Older Americans Act

Location: Unknown


Contact: Andrew Langworthy

U.S. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Retirement Securities and Aging, announced that the Older American Act Reauthorization, which he co-authored and cosponsored, passed the Senate late last night by unanimous consent. Senator Michael Enzi's (R-WY) reauthorization bill would reform the Older Americans Act to make it more effective in improving the lives of older Americans. Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) are also cosponsors.

"This reauthorization comes at a time when our older American population is rapidly growing and that's why so many of these improvements and additions are vital to ensuring our loved ones have the resources they need as they age." said Senator DeWine. "This reauthorization focuses on the challenges ahead of us while improving services to our current older population. With this reauthorization, older Americans would have better access to long-term care as they age, they have more options to age in their homes and in their communities, and they are given additional tools for learning what services and benefits are available to them. In addition, since families take on all shapes and sizes, this bill would bolster the National Family Caregiver Support Program, by allowing more grandparent caregivers to access the benefits the program provides."

Last reauthorized in 2000, the Older Americans Act was first passed in 1965 to better serve the low-income elderly population, and serves as the cornerstone for such social services as nutrition programs, home care, affordable housing, transportation, and job training. In addition to reauthorizing the Act, the legislation would improve the Older Americans Act in the following ways: -- Reauthorizes and enhances the senior nutrition programs, such as Meals on Wheels. These programs help to reduce seniors' risk of disease, injury, and disability. -- Direct the Assistant Secretary on Aging to promote the development and implementation of comprehensive, coordinated systems that enable older individuals to receive long-term care in home and community-based settings based on individual needs and preferences. Also authorizes Aging and Disability Resource Centers to aid older Americans in finding the help they need in their communities. -- Expands the National Family Caregiver Support Program to give more Older Americans access to the program's resources to provide for children in their care. Also allows the program to serve all persons with Alzheimer's disease and older parents caring for their disabled children. -- Establishes a grant program for mental health screening of older Americans and increase awareness of mental illness effects. -- Creates an interagency council to ensure appropriate planning for the needs of older Americans, with emphasis on preparing for baby boomer-related needs. -- Allows grants for the improvement of assistive technology for older Americans to enable them to have the necessary technology needed to monitor their own health and remain independent in their homes. -- Creates a grant program to encourage the creation of innovative models that allow individuals to remain in community-based settings, such as naturally occurring retirement communities. -- Greatly enhances elder justice provisions of the bill to allow additional grants to prevent elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It also would collect data about elder abuse to help improve the well-being of our loved ones. -- Encourages the civic engagement of older Americans through grant programs so that communities can take advantage of this precious resource. -- Reauthorizes and enhances the community service employment program for low-income seniors which provides more than 2000 jobs for older adults in Ohio.

Reauthorizing and modernizing the Older Americans Act was the top priority of the Senate Subcommittee on Retirement Security and Aging, under the direction of Senator DeWine. Most recently, Senator DeWine held a hearing examining naturally occurring retirement communities. Senator DeWine chaired a hearing on the Older Americans Act in March 2006, to examine Title V - Community Service Employment. In February of this year Senator DeWine held a roundtable for community leaders to share their thoughts and ideas about reauthorization. Senator DeWine also chaired a hearing in May 2005 where Assistant Aging Secretary, Josefina Carbonell, and Assistant Labor Secretary Emily DeRocco testified offered their views on improving the Older Americans Act.

The bill now goes to the President for his signature.

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