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President Signs Older Americans Act into Law

On April 19th, President Obama signed the Older Americans Reauthorization Act (OAA) of 2016 into law after it passed both chambers of Congress earlier this year. This now reestablishes funding levels for many services that enable about 11 million seniors to remain in their homes.

The legislation provides funding for the next three years for critical services, including Meals on Wheels, transportation, caregiver support, legal services, elder abuse protection, information and referral services, nutrition programs, and more. It offers new support for modernizing multipurpose senior centers, promotes chronic disease self-management and includes stronger elder justice and legal services provisions.

“The OAA underpins a promise to preserve the right to live independently, with dignity, making everyday decisions according to our individual preferences and goals across our lifespan,” Kathy Greene, assisted secretary of aging with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in a statement.

 “Our nation faces a severe and growing shortage of eldercare providers with the skills and training to meet the unique health care needs of older adults,” Amy York, director of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), said in a statement. “EWA is committed to supporting the reauthorization of the OAAA as it invests in building and maintaining an eldercare workforce—this includes family caregivers—that supports well-coordinate, high-quality care for older adults.”

EWA is a group of 31 national organizations that represent consumers, family caregivers and health care professionals, and work to address the workforce crisis in caring for an aging population. LeadingAge is a member of EWA.

The OAA was first established in 1965 and has a long reputation of helping older Americans live more independently and manage their health at home. The act was mainly a response by policymakers who were concerned about a lack of community-based services for seniors. With the largest cohort of older Americans aging into retirement, policymakers were again prompted to respond to the growing need of in-home and community-based services.

The OAA was last authorized in 2006 and expired at the end of 2011, after Congress failed to approve reauthorization legislation. Reauthorizing the act has been a priority for President Obama, whose budget proposal for FY 2016 included an increase of $138M for the OAA.

Contact: Cheryl Udell, cudell@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8871