Volume 2, Issue 2
Federal Budget Cuts and the Impact on Seniors
The federal government is working frantically to decrease spending in 2011 by making sweeping cuts to numerous federally funded programs, in order to avoid a government shutdown. Unfortunately, many of the changes proposed will negatively impact seniors. The cuts began in House Resolution 1 (HR 1), passed by the House last month as a long term continuing resolution to cut fiscal spending this year and keep the federal government from shutting down. But 2011 spending cuts are only the beginning. Next, focus will turn to the 2012 budget where a new round of cuts will likely take place, with potential far-reaching negative impacts on seniors.
Immediate Cuts on the Horizon
The NCOA is deeply concerned by the 64% cut to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSE). According to NCOA, this is the only major job program that is targeted specifically to helping disadvantaged older adults who need to remain in or return to the workforce to avoid financial crisis. The cut proposed in HR 1 would result in the loss of over 83,000 part-time jobs. “For older adults aged 55-64, who cannot yet claim Social Security, the loss of this program could be particularly devastating,” said Jim Firman, president and CEO of the NCOA.
According to the NCOA, the $390 cut in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program will force older Americans to make life and death decisions between buying food and medicine or home energy.
AARP’s Response to the Proposed Cuts
Hammond noted that AARP is also greatly concerned about the other cuts contained in the proposal, testifying, “While SSA funding is of great importance, we have equal concern for many other vital health care services and economic security programs, including severe proposed cuts to home energy assistance, nutrition programs and Medicare premium assistance for low income seniors. The budget reflects the priorities of this nation, and any budgetary cuts will impact people, not just programs.”
The Threat to Senior Volunteer Programs
The Foster Grandparent Program connects older volunteers with opportunities to provide one-on-one mentoring, nurturing and support to children with special needs, exceptional needs or who are academically, socially or financially disadvantaged. The volunteers themselves derive significant emotional and health benefits as a result of providing these services. Foster Grandparents may serve between 15 and 40 hours per week, and low-income volunteers receive a small stipend to help defray the costs of volunteering.
In 2010, approximately 29,100 Grandparent volunteers delivered 24 million hours of service to more than 137,000 children.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) provides volunteers to work with nonprofit and public organizations, trains seniors to help them live independently, and provides volunteers to mentor more than 16,000 children. RSVP volunteers are non-stipend volunteers. The average federal cost per volunteer is approximately $140 per volunteer. RSVP also raises funds by applying for grants.
The Senior Companion Program provides volunteers who offer companionship and support to thousands of older and frail adults, helping them to remain independent and in their own homes at a cost much lower than institutional care. They transport clients to medical appointments, help shop for food and basic necessities, and provide companionship to offset isolation. Senior Companions, who receive a modest hourly stipend, also provide respite to family caregivers.
What’s in Store for 2011
The Target on Entitlement Programs in 2012
Medicaid cuts could also be coming. There is support within the Republican party to turn Medicaid into a block grant program. This would mean states would be given a lump sum of money to distribute as they see fit. Once the money is used up, there would be no additional Medicaid enrollees until the next fiscal year.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, widely thought to be a Presidential candidate in 2012, recently testified U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on the benefits of turning Medicaid into a block grant for the states. A portion of that testimony is below:
Please contact us if you would like additional information on any of the topics addressed in this newsletter or if you would like to discuss a specific issue.
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