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Tell Congress to Support Older Adults in the COVID Relief Bill

Things are moving quickly in Congress on the next round of federal COVID-19 relief.

In response to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, on February 27, the House passed legislation to provide additional stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, and rental, nutrition, and utility assistance—as well as important provisions that would support older Americans and the organizations that serve them.

NCOA is advocating to make sure these provisions are included in the final bill as it moves through the Senate over the next two weeks. Your members of Congress need to hear from you—their constituents—on why these provisions are so important.

If you haven’t contacted your Senators yet, your action is needed now, with Senate votes expected in the coming week, and the goal of enacting a relief bill by mid-March before some benefits expire.

Below are the provisions that NCOA supports, along with links to our action alerts where you can send a message on the issues you care about directly to your lawmakers. Research shows that Hill staff take note of messages that are unique, with personal stories or data, so please add that to your email.

Medicaid Home Care Services

The House-passed legislation includes a $9.7 billion investment this year for Medicaid home and community-based services through a 7.35% increase in the federal contribution to states, which would allow low-income older adults and people with disabilities to receive care at home with their families instead of in a nursing home. These services are especially vital now, when nursing homes have high rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths. Home care workers and caregivers are also facing extraordinary challenges and risks to keeping themselves and their clients safe.

Older Americans Act Programs

The legislation also includes $1.44 billion in funding for critical community programs provided under the Older Americans Act (OAA). These include:

  • $750 million for nutrition programs
  • $25 million for services for Native American communities
  • $470 million for supportive services, including COVID-19 vaccination outreach and coordination and efforts to address social isolation
  • $44 million for evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention programs
  • $145 million for the National Family Caregiver Support Program
  • $10 million for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

These provisions extend relief funding provided to the Aging Services Network that is beginning to run out, and they make investments in important new areas to support older adults and the community-based organizations that continue to assist them during the pandemic.

Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently introduced legislation to reinforce these priorities and more. NCOA was pleased to endorse the bill and its additional investments in the new Innovation Center we championed in the 2020 OAA reauthorization, as well as intergenerational programming.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Emergency Benefits

The House legislation also addresses the President’s call for extending the emergency 15% increase in SNAP benefits through at least September, and provide additional funding for program administration, online purchasing and technology improvements. Older adults need more than the average $121 per month for 60+ aged households, especially now that physical distancing adds extra steps and time to getting food.

You can help us keep these critical provisions in the final bill for older adults. Please act now and share this message with your colleagues!

About Howard Bedlin & Marci Phillips

Howard Bedlin is NCOA's Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy. He is responsible for federal and state legislative advocacy efforts on issues and programs of concern to older adults, which include the Older Americans Act, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care, income security, and community services programs.

Marci Phillips is NCOA's Director of Public Policy and Advocacy. She oversees advocacy efforts related to budget and appropriations for seniors’ programs, Older Americans Act, economic security and hunger, and elder justice.

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