Key Takeaways

  • The American Rescue Plan includes important provisions that will help older adults get the supports they need at home and boost their financial security.

  • The $1.9 trillion relief package also includes health care improvements that will make it easier for adults aged 55 to 65 to afford care.

  • NCOA has championed many key provisions in the bill to increase funding, including for nutrition programs and community services.

The American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, includes critical relief to older adults in need as the nation continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 30 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, with the death toll now surpassing 532,000. Eight in 10 deaths reported are adults aged 65+.

The $1.9 trillion relief package is a step forward in ensuring resources are targeted to the most vulnerable. The law is expected to contribute to greater economic stability—potentially reducing the adult poverty rate by more than a quarter and the child poverty rate by half. Below you'll find a summary of the final package, including several of NCOA's priorities. 

Supporting Older Adults at Home

Older Americans Act Programs

More than 11 million older adults and their caregivers rely on Older Americans Act (OAA) programs to stay independent. These include senior centers, healthy aging programs, nutrition, in-home services, transportation, caregiver support, and elder abuse protections. The law earmarks $1.43 billion for OAA programs, including:

  • Nutrition services such as home-delivered meals ($750 million)
  • Supportive services, including COVID-19 vaccination outreach and efforts to address social isolation ($460 million)
  • The National Family Caregiver Support Program, which provides caregiver counseling, support groups, training, and respite care ($145 million)
  • Evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention programs, including for falls prevention and chronic diseases ($44 million)
  • Nutrition and supportive services for Native American communities ($25 million)
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which advocates on behalf of individuals living in nursing homes ($10 million)

Medicaid Home Care Services

The law invests $12.7 billion to allow more low-income older adults and people with disabilities to receive care at home with their families instead of in nursing homes. It includes a 10% boost in the federal contribution to states through March 31, 2022 for Medicaid home and community-based services.


In addition to COVID funding under the OAA, the law includes $20 billion for improving vaccine administration and distribution across the country and $50 billion for testing, contact tracing, and manufacturing of personal protective equipment. There is also $500 million for nursing home strike teams to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and $200 million for infection control in nursing homes.

Elder Justice Act

The law invests $276 million per year in the Elder Justice Act over the next two years. This will support programs to combat elder abuse, promote elder justice research and innovation, enhance Adult Protective Services, and provide protections for residents of long-term care facilities.

Infrastructure & Transportation

The law includes $350 billion in aid to state, local, tribal, and territory governments to cover unexpected costs from the pandemic and begin to invest in projects to support recovery such as broadband expansion. It also includes $30 billion in funding to bolster local subway and bus systems, which many older adults rely on.

Boosting Senior Financial Security

Stimulus Checks

Older adults are eligible for direct COVID relief under the act. Individuals earning $75,000 per year and couples earning $150,000 will receive the full $1,400 per person stimulus check. These amounts are gradually reduced and then phased out for individuals earning over $80,000 and couples earning over $160,000.

Food Programs

Roughly 5 million low-income adults aged 60+ rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to afford food. Many older adults need more than the average $121 per month SNAP benefit, especially as COVID restrictions make it harder to access food.

The American Rescue Plan extends the emergency 15% increase in SNAP benefits through September 2021. It also supports the government agencies that run SNAP, with $25 million for online purchasing and technology improvements, including for farmers markets.

In addition, the act includes $37 million for nutrition food boxes for food insecure older adults under the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.


In support of older workers and others who have lost their jobs this past year, the act extends the existing $300 weekly unemployment benefit through September 6 and includes a tax break on $10,000 in unemployment benefits.

Housing & Utilities

The law will ensure that people struggling to pay for housing and utilities will receive assistance. It provides $27.4 billion in emergency rental assistance, $10 billion to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, $5 billion in vouchers for public housing, $5 billion to tackle homelessness, and $5 billion to help cover utility bills. In addition, there is $4.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and $500 million for water assistance for low-income households.

Pension Protections

The act invests $86 billion in underfunded multiemployer pension plans, which would be eligible to receive assistance from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to help protect the earned benefits of workers and retirees.

Improving Health Care for People Aged 55-65

The American Rescue Plan expands the Affordable Care Act to increase the number of Americans with health insurance and cut out-of-pocket costs. These improvements will help older adults who are not yet eligible for Medicare.

Over two years, the law makes health insurance tax credits more generous and available to more people. Enrollees will pay no more than 8.5% of their income toward coverage, and families with incomes below 150% of poverty will get coverage with no premiums. It also increases the federal subsidy for COBRA health insurance to 100%, making it more affordable for workers who leave their jobs but want to keep their employer health coverage.

The act encourages more states to expand Medicaid by increasing federal matching payments of 5% over 2 years.

It also tackles behavioral health, which has been a significant issue for isolated older adults this past year. The law includes a $4 billion increase to boost access to mental health and substance use disorder services, treatment, and prevention in communities.

What Happens Next

With the COVID relief bill finished, Congress will now turn to the budget and appropriations process for the coming fiscal year. Lawmakers also are expected to address economic recovery and infrastructure investments. Learn more about NCOA’s federal budget priorities and how you can take action.