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STATEMENT OF THE HON. THOMAS J. DOWNEY
Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Services
the Subcommittee on Human Resources
April 25, 1991
I would like to commend both Chairman Roybal and Chairman Martinez for convening this joint hearing on the reauthorization of the older Americans Act. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the General Accounting Office for the many studies they have undertaken for all of us here today. The work of the staff of the General Accounting Office has immeasurably increased the quantity and quality of information that we have about the operation of the Older Americans Act. I am pleased to say that at this point in time we seem to heading in a positive direction relative to the reauthorization of the Act. Over the past four years, several prominent issues have emerged, and are now getting the attention they deserve.
As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Services, I held a total of 8 hearings in the past two years focusing on reauthorization and emerging issues. These hearings covered issues like public partnerships, frail elderly, 1991 White House Conference on Aging, Title IV, and special elderly populations among others.
These hearings served to bring into focus the special needs that have developed in our aging population during the past decade, and ways in which to serve those needs. Now as we reach the point where our attention is geared toward improving and expanding what is already a highly successful program, there are certain issues we should take into consideration. We seem to have a consensus around the following issues;
A multi-year reauthorization of 3-4 years
2) We support the upgrading of the position of the Commissioner on Aging to Assistant Secretary. We are encouraged by the action recently taken by Secretary Sullivan to make the Administration on Aging an independent agency. While not much is currently known as to the exact details of that decision, full control over AOA's budget and resources are a top priority. Adequate resources are needed to make this real and not simply cosmetic. We hope to be learning more about their implemention of this decision in the. very near future. The Subcommittee on Human Services will be holding a hearing soon to provide the public with an opportunity to learn more.
3) There is a growing consensus developing around raising authorization levels annually by 5 or 6%, factoring in inflation and growth in our aging population.
4) There is growing interest around raising the visibility of legal services under the Act through a new section coordinating all programs protecting elder rights. It is a proper emphasis which I strongly support.
5) There have be":ll yLuwLy calls for an expanded. comitment to transportation as an access to basic human and social services. In January of this year, I held a hearing on the issue of transportation for the elderly, and believe it is a component of the older Americans Act which should be addressed. I also believe that the older Americans Act should not be the only answer to this problem, and that additional funding in the Urban Mass Transportation Administration language of the Surface Transportation bill will help to alleviate some of the burden
Where there is not consensus is the means towards these ends. The Older Americans Act is in need of additional nonFederal resources now and in the future. How we get those resources is where there is disagreement. One approach says mandatory cost sharing. I oppose this approach on the grounds that it violates the basic premise of the Act, which is that this is not a means tested program. It threatens to drive people out of the program, including the needy. For those vulnerable people, there is no added benefit at all. Mandatory cost sharing is not needed when systems involving voluntary contributions work so well -- for example, in nutrition programs and even in Title III-B, where approximately $9 million was raised just last year.
More information is needed on cost sharing before we plunge in and create a type of program that goes against the mission of the Act. My Subcommittee has recently completed a survey of just one segment of the aging community state and area agency directors around the country. While the results of this survey give substantial arguments for as well as against cost sharing, much more data is required before we move to alter the older Americans Act. I would encourage all interested parties to the extent possible to survey their constituencies on this very important issue.
Another approach for raising new revenues is the expanded use of public-private partnerships. Here again, we must use caution. These partnerships can be good for bringing in new sources of funds. However, unless there is a commitment for these partnerships to aid the needy elderly, then problems can develop. I am confident that the potential problems can be resolved, and I encourage the widest development of public private partnerships.
There are other issues that need to be addressed during this reauthorization. We must improve our targeting record. We can do by the closer monitoring of formulas, and how they produce in terms of reaching more elderly in greater economic or social need. We do not need to make radical adjustments in formulas themselves. We should not overcompensate for any one group, thereby threatening other equally needy elderly from receiving their needed and fair shares. The Administration on Aging should have full power to approve or disapprove, where absolutely necessary, formulas if they are not meant to improve targeting.
We need to better determine the number of minority elderly and work to increaase their participation in Older Americans Act programs.
We must closely evaluate the current transfer authority language in the older Americans Act since all the money is coming from one program, Title III-C and is weakening the program. I do not know why it must remain at 30% when the average percent of transfer is about 17%.
We must work to restore the $47.5 million Title v budget cut proposal of the Administration which will eliminate 7,800 senior jobs nationwide. I will be testifying next month before the Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations on this particular concern as well as meeting with Secretary Martin to try to avert those cuts.
We need to find ways to encourage the Administration on Aging to find ways to perfect their dissemination capabilities, so that those state and area agencies on aging can benefit from information that AOA has funded and collected. We need to spend some time looking at Title IV of the Act, including making sure that training and research received the appropriate attention.
Finally, we should work together as a team to ensure that the final outcome of the older Americans Act is a product that we can not only be proud of, but that aids all those the Act was intended to serve when it was created 26 years ago. I look forward to working with both Chairmen, Members of the Committees and the Administration gathered here today.
Chairman ROYBAL. Thank you. The Chair recognizes Mr. Boehlert.
STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT
Mr. BOEHLERT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I came here to listen and learn so that I can be more responsive in addressing the needs of a very vital sector of our economy. Chairman ROYBAL. The Chair recognizes now Ms. DeLauro.
STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE ROSA L. DELAURO Ms. DELAURO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank you for holding this joint hearing this morning. Since Congress passed the Older Americans Act in 1965, millions have benefited from the program. It has provided training and employment opportunities to our Nation's seniors plus a wide range of services, which include nutrition and health education and in-home care.
The Act has allowed seniors to become and remain independent, as well as to be active members of their communities, and the success stories are many which we can all tell. In my own state of Connecticut, there are five Area Agencies that deal with issues regarding the aging, and these agencies were seed funding under the Act. They have been in the business of arranging for transportation for seniors to medical appointments, elderly outreach, adult day care, legal services, and the list goes on and on.
I have talked to seniors, and they tell me how they have benefited from the program, and they sing the praises of the assistance that the Act has provided to them. However, their main concern is whether or not these programs are going to continue and whether funding will continue to be available.
That is one of the several issues that surround the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. Others include the decrease in minority population participation, cost sharing, and the difficulty in fully informing the senior population about the availability of such programs, and I think as legislators we have to reconfirm our own commitment to the senior population and ensure that the Older Americans Act continues to offer our seniors comfort and security through employment opportunities, through good nutrition programs, and access to health care. I thank you again for holding this hearing, and I look forward to hearing the witnesses this morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Chairman ROYBAL. Thank you. The Chair recognizes Mr. Franks.
STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE GARY A. FRANKS Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I too would like to commend you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. I look forward to hearing the testimony today, and I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to have my full remarks entered into the record by unanimous consent.
Chairman ROYBAL. Without objection, it will be ordered.
STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN GARY A. PRANKS
HOUSB SELECT COMMITTEE ON AGING
HEARING ON THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT
THURSDAY, APRIL 25, 1991
Mr. Chairman, today we will hear testimony on an extremely important piece of legislation, not only for those it directly serves but for all generations of Americans.
Since 1965, the older Americans Act has been a vital life line for the millions of Senior Citizens who wish to live productive and dignified lives at a time when they deserve it most.
Senior Citizens have built this nation into a true world power, through their efforts in the work place or through service to their country.
The older Americans Act has provided a variety of services which have improved the quality of life for seniors nutrition, home care services, intergenerational programs, legal assistance and jobs for those with low income.
with few exceptions, all
these programs have been successful, due in part, to the thousands of care givers and Senior advocates on the front lines.
As we hear testimony and acquire more information on the Act, it is clear that the needs of our seniors are growing, both in volume and the types of programs required to help supplement and improves the lives of the elderly.
I believe we should be doing more to evaluate how our programs, under the Act, have been working and not working. It is evident that more hard data is needed to determine how many of our seniors are not getting the services available, either through lack of knowledge or outreach.
cost effectiveness demands that the government take a hard look at how we can best spend dollars for the next period of authorization.
We must also be focusing on the authority of the Commissioner on Aging. I would applaud any effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to elevate the stature and authority of the Commissioner on Aging.
The Commissioner must have more control over this agency, and I am very confident in the ability of Dr. Joyce Berry to carry out any new mandate or responsibility.
on other issues, Mr. Chairman, I want to say I support full funding of Title V programs which provide employment and job training opportunities to senior citizens.
Senior citizens are an integral part of our workforce. They bring a wealth of experience and provide a superb example to younger generations. Many Title V recipients serve a vital need as care givers or service providers.
Title V has a solid performance record and it should be retained with adequate funding.
There should also be discussions on how more revenue can be generated for some of the Act's programs, particularly Title III. I realize there is great trepidation among many devoted Senior Advocates, and members of this committee, that the "spirit" of the Act should not be deviated from, in any form.
However, we must not be so rigid in our thinking that we miss everyone's desire to provide more to the elderly with dwindling resources. Voluntary contributions have been a tremendous resource for supplementing and expanding Title III services.
With th need growing, we should explore areas where public/private partnerships be built, as
"self declare" contributions from those who can afford to pay for these services.
I want to make clear I do not support more administration or needless inspection into the personal finances of our seniors. But many elderly are going hungry, and we need to generate more resources through a fair method of assessment.
More public education, private sector involvement and emphasis of marshalling our resources to help those who are in dire need, should be some of the Congress' priorities as we debate the