Mar 25, 2020
By Lance Robertson, Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging, Administration for Community Living. Originally published on the HHS Blog.
Today, our country affirmed the rights, dignity, independence, and well-being of older adults when President Trump signed HR4334, the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 into law.
The law reauthorizes critical Older Americans Act (OAA) programs through 2024. Since 1965, the OAA has provided critical services that have enabled millions of older Americans to stay in their own homes and communities. Services supported by the OAA include congregate and home-delivered meals, case management, specialized transportation services, employment and volunteer programs, adult day care, senior centers and activities, personal care, homemaker and chore services, legal support, health promotion, and disease prevention. OAA programs also support family caregivers, who are the backbone of our nation’s long-term care system.
These services are provided by a national aging services network, which today includes 56 state and territorial units on aging (SUAs), 618 area agencies on aging, 274 Tribal and Native Hawaiian organizations, more than 20,000 direct-service providers, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers.
This network represents a nationwide infrastructure that reaches every community in this country. Over the past few weeks, the novel coronavirus has tested this network like never before. I am proud to say that across the country, we have dedicated aging services professionals step up under difficult circumstances to get public health information out and ensure the continuation of critical services, even when it has required some creative problem solving.
HHS and the Administration for Community Living stand with the aging network in this difficult time and we are doing everything we can to support the important work of the network, including by easing some regulations and providing added flexibility to allow programs to continue their work. In fact, earlier this week, ACL awarded grants totaling $250 million in emergency funding authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to augment the work the network is doing to ensure older adults have access to the nutritious meals they need to stay healthy.
For more than 50 years, the Older Americans Act has helped people live the lives they want, with the people they choose, throughout their lives. Because of the Older Americans Act, communities across the nation benefit from the wealth of knowledge that comes only with life experience. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the agency responsible for implementing the majority of this important legislation, and I am so grateful for its reauthorization.