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Senior Citizen Politics

Senior Citizen Programs Targeted by U.S. House-Approved Spending Bill

National Council on Aging lists programs; says bill guts only jobs program for vulnerable older Americans

Feb. 23, 2011 - Cuts included in the spending bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives this past week would harm senior citizens by drastically slashing initiatives that help older Americans to sustain their economic independence and health, according to the National Council on Aging,  a non-profit service and senior advocacy organization.  

Provisions would:

    ●  Cut job training and placement by over $2 billion, including a $525 million cut in services specifically for low-income seniors;

    ●  Cut senior housing programs by $551 million;

    ●  Cut Community Health Centers that serve seniors by $1 billion;

    ●  Cut low-income home energy assistance by $390 million;

    ●  Eliminate the Weatherization program;

    ●  Cut Community Services Block Grants, which assist 2.3 million seniors, by $305 million;

    ●  Cut programs that include senior volunteers by over $1 billion; and

    ●  Cut the Social Security Administration by $625 million, which will slow down claims.

The NCOA expressed particular concern  that the continuing appropriations bill provides for a 64% cut in the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the only major jobs program that is targeted specifically to helping disadvantaged older adults who need to remain in or return to the workforce to avoid financial crisis.

 

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SCSEP serves those with extremely low incomes, with eligibility limited to 125% of the federal poverty line (currently $13,613). This cut would result in the loss of over 83,000 part-time jobs, thus eliminating the primary source of income for many of them.  

"For older adults aged 55-64, who cannot yet claim Social Security, the loss of this program could be particularly devastating," said Jim Firman, president and CEO of the NCOA. "According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, older workers who have lost a job are more likely than any other age group to face very long-term unemployment and remain jobless for 99 weeks or more."

Public support for older adult jobs programs is extremely high, according to a survey conducted by Lake Research Partners for Wider Opportunities for Women in October 2010. The survey found that 84% of Americans supported or strongly supported "funding programs that help senior citizens find employment," including 90% of Democrats polled, 79% of Republicans, and 79% of Independents.  

"If the politicians truly 'listened to the people' as they claim," said Firman, "they certainly would not cut jobs for seniors, particularly in this economy."

The House legislation also calls for a $390 million cut in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Almost 40% of households served by LIHEAP include an adult aged 60 or older. This reduction will force older Americans to make life and death decisions between buying food and medicine or home energy.

Employment and benefits are important pieces of the puzzle for older adults who are living on the edge of poverty. NCOA is committed to helping older adults build greater economic security, and offers a variety of other resources, including:

   ● NCOA's Economic Security Service Centers provide low-income older adults with one-on-one economic casework at 12 locations nationwide.

   ● The Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) program provides an opportunity for retired and unemployed older Americans aged 55+ to share their expertise in jobs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

   ● Home Equity and Reverse Mortgage Counseling helps millions of seniors make prudent use of their equity so they can "use their home to stay at home."

   ● BenefitsCheckUp.org is a free online screening tool that searches over 2,000 federal, state, local, and private programs to help seniors pay for prescription drugs, utility bills, meals, health care, and other needs.

The NCOA is a non-profit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC., and says it is a national voice for older Americans - especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged - and the community organizations that serve them. For more information, visit www.NCOA.org.

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