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SCSEP: Providing Jobs and Economic Impact Across the Country

For more than 50 years, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) has been helping older Americans return to the workforce. Created to help rural, long-term unemployed seniors, the program now puts nearly 70,000 older Americans to work in large and small communities across the country.

So why, you may ask, was this program created for senior Americans if they have Social Security benefits? And how does community service tie in with employment?

SCSEP is more than job placement

To understand the program, it’s important to have historical context. SCSEP was established in 1965 by Congress in Title V of the Older Americans Act. The impetus for authorizing the program was three-fold:

  • To improve the overall well-being and economic security of older Americans
  • To support nonprofits through community service
  • To help older Americans re-enter the labor workforce

If you’ve heard or read about SCSEP recently, it was probably a discussion on budget cuts and the success the program has had returning older Americans to the workforce. Truth is, more than half of participants move from subsidized community service positions to unsubsidized employment following the program.

SCSEP is unique in that it’s the only U.S. Department of Labor program that does not overlap with any other similar programs, and it is specifically targeted to senior workforce development. The value of the community service provided is estimated around $820 million yearly – which is more than double the program’s yearly appropriation. That makes it a pretty good deal.

How does SCSEP work?

Seniors 55 and older, unemployed, and living on a family income of no more than 125% of the federal poverty level can qualify for the program. Once a participant is enrolled, they receive a subsidized minimum wage for work at a nonprofit agency.

The participants get skills training needed for building maintenance, office-related tasks, customer service, and child care jobs – just to name a few. The specific training differs based on the job needs within the community, as well as the employment goals of the participant.

What are the benefits of SCSEP?

SCSEP is not just a feel-good program, and you can see the benefits trickle down from the senior participant into the very fabric of the community.

For local nonprofits, the support provided by SCSEP participants is invaluable. Their hours, which are subsidized by the federal government through the program, keep valuable services available that might otherwise be cut because of budget or staffing shortfalls.

But, the biggest victory of the program is the renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment of participants. The increased financial security reduces the stress in their lives, improves their health, and keeps them active in their communities.

The human factor

Everything that SCSEP aims to do comes back to the well-being of senior Americans. While there are widespread economic benefits to the workforce across the United States, the heart of the program is in the people served.

At the end of the day, SCSEP changes lives. And it does so in the context of economic growth. SCSEP gives older Americans who desire to work and are struggling to make ends meet the opportunity to be self-sufficient, to build confidence, and to be productive. When older adults thrive, our communities thrive.

There are participants in most communities across the country. They are our neighbors, our family members, and our friends. Our friend Patti shared her story with us because she wants people to know that SCSEP was a lifesaver for her. Read her story.

Do you have a SCSEP story? If so, share it in the comments below.

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About SCSEP Staff

Created in 1965, Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is the nation’s oldest program to help low-income, unemployed individuals aged 55+ find work. NCOA's SCSEP staff manages 27 SCSEP offices across the country.

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