On Jan. 28, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a 3-year reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA) during its first markup of the 114th Congress. The legislation passed the full Senate without opposition on July 16, 2015. The Senate then unanimously approved the House amendments on April 7, 2016. The bill was signed into law by the President on April 19, 2016.
Chairman Alexander (R-TN) enlisted the support of Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) and Sens. Burr (R-NC) and Sanders (I-VT) for the Older Americans Act Reauthorization of 2015, which builds upon bipartisan legislation that the committee adopted in 2013.
The bill, S. 192, reflects a number of NCOA’s OAA reauthorization priorities, including provisions that:
- Create new support for modernizing multipurpose senior centers
- Highlight the importance of addressing economic needs
- Require that health promotion and disease prevention initiatives be evidence-based
- Promote chronic disease self-management and falls prevention
NCOA also supports the bill’s stronger elder justice and legal services provisions, needed clarity for caregiver support and Aging & Disability Resource Centers, and new opportunities for intergenerational shared sites. The bill also retains current language that does not place any limits on how much Older Americans Act appropriations can grow.
The legislation takes the same modest approach to OAA changes as with the 2013 bipartisan bill by scaling back language that appeared in earlier reauthorization measures.
For example, rather than authorizing a new stand-alone demonstration program to identify model senior center modernization approaches and provide training and technical assistance to help other centers adopt them, the bill simply gives the Assistant Secretary for Aging the authority to accomplish this with existing resources.
Also, instead of making “economic security” a goal of the OAA, the language clarifies that the Administration’s duties include supporting research and implementation of programs that address the economic needs of older adults and creating and disseminating materials related to the economic welfare of seniors.
Changes to Note
There are two changes from the 2013 bill in S. 192 that are worth noting:
- A revision in the federal-to-state formula for Title III funding is included.
- Language to authorize a study on senior transportation was eliminated because that report was completed last year.
The current Title III formula makes allocations to states based on the size of their senior population. However, there is a “hold harmless” clause that ensures that no state receives less than its allocation in 2006.
S. 192 includes new hold harmless language, which states that for each of the next three years that OAA is authorized and the formula is adjusted to reflect changes in states’ senior populations, every state is guaranteed to receive at least 99% of its Title III allocation from the previous year.
The committee makes clear in its summary of the bill that the intent is to protect states from losing more than 1% in each of the next three years, with no further adjustments until the Older Americans Act is reauthorized again. Also, small states known as “minimum states,” which receive a guaranteed baseline amount, would not see any changes.
NCOA does not take positions on formula changes. But as deliberations on the hold harmless clause stalled reauthorization, it became clear that Senators needed to craft a compromise to help legislation advance.
Chairman Alexander has chosen to make OAA reauthorization a top priority this year, the 50th anniversary of the Act. He is doing so in a bipartisan manner that remains true to the history of this important legislation.
Now that the Senate has passed S. 192, our goal is for the House to quickly move to finalize the reauthorization process.