OAA Reauthorization Enables Continuation of Critical Human and Social Services

Since 1965, the Older Americans Act (OAA) has been providing home- and community-based social services to the elderly. These services include everything from food and nutrition programs, in-home services, transportation, legal, elder-abuse prevention and caregiver support. The programs are designed to help seniors stay as independent as possible in their homes and communities. In addition, OAA services help seniors avoid having to be hospitalized or go into a nursing home, saving federal and state funds that otherwise would be spent on such care. 

The OAA provides money to each state based on its share of the nation’s older adults and helps about 11 million people over the age of 60 each year. In 2019 alone, the OAA served more than 700,000 caregivers; and provided seniors across the country with 358 million meals.

However, funding for the program has fallen short over the years, according to the AARP, and has failed to keep up with inflation and the increased demand from an aging population. In fact, the AARP cites that OAA funding increased only 1.1% annually on average – from $1.68 billion in 2001 to $2.06 billion in 2019. 

Increased Funding Part of OAA Reauthorization

Both the Congress and Senate introduced separate reauthorizations bills for the OAA following its expiration in September 2019. Both bills extended the OAA and increased funding. While neither bill was passed in 2019, the President in December included in one of the signed appropriations bills to keep the federal government funded a $30 million increase for the OAA above 2019 levels for 2020.

On January 29, 2020, a bipartisan, bicameral reauthorization bill was released called The Supporting the Older Americans Act of 2020, which would reauthorize the law and its programs from 2020-2024. The bill contains a seven percent increase in authorized funds for all OAA programs in 2020 and a six percent increase in subsequent years. There are also a number of provisions in the legislation to improve and modernize the OAA. 

The Senate needs to vote on the bill before it moves to the House and signed into law by the President.

Reauthorization of the OAA is supported by dozens of organizations including the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, AARP, the National Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), Advancing States, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP), National Alliance for Caregiving, Meals on Wheels America, the West Health Institute, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

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Sources: AARP, Meals on Wheels America, NANASP