Deep Proposed Budget Cuts Would Weaken Programs Targeted to Low-Income Older Americans
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Deep Proposed Budget Cuts Would Weaken Programs Targeted to Low-Income Older Americans


February 14, 2011

Ken Schwartz

President’s Budget Undermines the Only Jobs Program for Vulnerable Seniors

Washington, DC – Spending cuts included in today’s release of the President’s FY2012 Budget would drastically slash initiatives that empower older Americans to sustain their health and economic independence.
The budget proposes a 45% cut in the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the only major jobs program targeted specifically to helping disadvantaged older adults who need to remain in the workforce to avoid financial crisis. 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 55,000 part-time jobs, causing thousands of mature workers to struggle to remain employed.

“At a time when Democrats and Republicans are both talking about jobs, it just doesn’t make sense to cut the only jobs program for seniors,” said Jim Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA). “The unemployment rate just went down in December as 36,000 new jobs were created and now the Administration wants to give them right back.”

For older adults aged 55-64, who cannot yet claim Social Security, the loss of this program could be particularly devastating. 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. This is particularly true of older workers of color.

“This jobs program works,” said Sandra Nathan, senior vice president for economic security at NCOA. “SCSEP not only helps mature workers make the transition from unemployment to self-sufficiency, it also helps them develop new skills that the economy needs. There are workers in our jobs program in North Carolina right now who are getting trained to install solar panels – just the kind of ‘green’ jobs that the President mentioned in his State of the Union address.”

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.   

Budget Cuts Also Harm Heating Assistance for Low Income Seniors

The Administration also has proposed cutting the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by almost half. Almost 40% of households served by LIHEAP include an adult aged 60 or older. This $2.5 billion cut will force older Americans to make life and death decisions between buying food and medicine or home energy.

“NCOA agrees that spending cuts needs to be part of the plan to reduce the deficit and that the President’s budget generally strikes a good balance among domestic programs, revenues and defense spending,” said NCOA’s Firman. “But cutting jobs and heating assistance for the most vulnerable, low-income seniors is the wrong way to go.”

Caregiving Program Gets Badly Needed Boost

The budget proposal does include some good news for seniors. The President would continue his commitment to providing assistance for family caregivers under the Older Americans Act.  A recent survey found that 74% of caregivers have either had to change their job situation or are not working as a result of their care giving responsibilities. Other initiatives to address elder abuse and neglect, improve chronic care, and promote home care rather than placement into expensive nursing homes also should receive broad, bipartisan support.   

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. More than 700 older adults have developed personalized “economic action plans,” featuring health insurance counseling, financial and legal counseling, bankruptcy and eviction assistance, foreclosure mitigation and reverse mortgage counseling, job training, and access to benefits.
  • 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.”
  • 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.


About NCOA The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at and @NCOAging.

Public Policy Priorities

See the issues we're fighting for in the 114th Congress, including the budget, Older Americans Act, and long-term services and supports.

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