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APRIL 25, 1991
CONGRESSMAN BILL RICHARDSON
Mr. Chairman, I commend you for holding this important
hearing on the reauthorization of the older Americans Act. The older American's Act provides critically needed services to older Americans in my district and across the U.S.
In New Mexico, nutrition and transportation services are of special importance given the frontier and rural nature of the State. I am also particularly concerned about a matter that was brought to my attention by the Director of the State Agency on Aging. That is the fact that many older Americans who are capable of paying for legal services use the legal referral services authorized by the Act. In so doing, those in need of free legal services may not receive such services as the system is overwhelmed.
I will also be taking a special interest and concern in improving the transportation services of the Act during the reauthorization of the Act. Transportation services is an important issue in New Mexico because of the many elderly individuals that live in rural areas. Without the transportation services provided by the Act, many of these individuals would not be able to get to their doctor's appointments, go to the bank or the grocery store. Unfortunately, while the need for these services is great, the available resources are not.
Mr. Chairman, I am hopeful that this hearing will bring about positive changes within the Act. I look forward to hearing from the distinguished witnesses.
Chairman ROYBAL. Mr. Nichols.
STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE DICK NICHOLS Mr. NICHOLS. Mr. Chairman, I share the interest of the various members of this committee, Select Committee on Aging, in hearing the testimony. I think we have some excellent witnesses lined up. We would be most interested in hearing what they have to say. As one who frequently goes to senior centers and to other areas where the seniors congregate, I know firsthand how difficult it is for some of them to provide for the costs of the meals they so desperately need.
It should be, as you had mentioned earlier, the golden years. We want it to be that way. We want it to work out. We will be looking forward expectantly to the hearing.
Chairman ROYBAL. Thank you, Mr. Nichols. The Chair recognizes Mrs. Lowey.
STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE NITA M. LOWEY Mrs. LowEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I too would like to thank you for holding this hearing. I am particularly interested in hearing the testimony today, and I look forward to working with you in strengthening the Older Americans Act through the reauthorization process. I know in my community, as I tour the senior centers, the entire network that is provided to seniors is absolutely critical, including nutritional services, including the day care services. It is a lifeline for so many of our seniors.
I am very interested in continuing to explore how we can expand upon the preventive health care services that are so vital in many of our senior centers, and I look forward to working with you as we reauthorize the Act and strengthening our commitment to our seniors, and I thank you very much.
Chairman ROYBAL. Thank you, Mrs. Lowey. The Chair now recognizes Mr. Hobson.
STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE DAVID L. HOBSON Mr. HOBSON. Mr. Chairman, I too want to thank you for this hearing, and I had an interest in this issue when I was at the state legislature, but I came here this morning to hear one witness that I don't see out there yet. He has a lot of experience, and he was president of Ohio Wesleyan University when I attended Ohio Wesleyan University, Dr. Arthur Flemming. So this will be a special hearing for me because he was the president of the university during the four years that I attended Ohio Wesleyan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman ROYBAL. Thank you. The Chair recognizes Mr. Downey.
STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS J. DOWNEY Mr. Downey. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to commend both you and Chairman Martinez for convening this joint hearing on the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the General Ac
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counting Office for the many studies they have undertaken for all of us here today.
I am pleased to say at this point that we are heading in a positive direction relative to the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, and over the last four years, several prominent issues have emerged and are now getting the attention they deserve.
We seem to have a consensus on the following issues: A multiyear reauthorization of the Act of 3 to 4 years. We support the upgrading of the position of the Commissioner on Aging to Assistant Secretary, and we are encouraged by the action taken by Secretary Sullivan last week to make the Administration on Aging an independent agency. While it seems that not much is currently known as to the exact meaning of this decision, full control over AoA's budget and resources are a top priority. My Subcommittee on Human Services will be holding a hearing soon to provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about this particular decision.
Other issues of agreement are raising the authorization levels of the Act by 5 or 6 percent, to factor in inflation and the aging population growth, a growing interest in raising the visibility of legal services under the Act through a new elder rights' section, and there have been growing calls for an expanded commitment to transportation as an access to basic human and social services.
Where there is not consensus is the means towards these ends. The Older Americans Act is in need of additional non-federal resources now and in the future. How we get those resources is where there is disagreement. One approach says mandatory costsharing. I oppose this approach on the grounds that it violates the basic premise of the Act which is that it is not a means-tested program. It threatens to drive people out of the program including the needy. Mandatory cost-sharing is not needed when systems involving voluntary contributions work so well.
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 on aging directors. 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 constituents on this very important issue.
Another approach for raising new revenue is the expanded use of the public/private partnerships, and I am confident that the concerns surrounding these partnerships can be resolved, and I encourage their development.
There are other issues that need to be addressed during this reauthorization. Among them are targeting; increasing the participation rates of minority elderly; evaluating the transfer authority language in the Act since all the money is coming from one program and is weakening it; restoring the Title V budget cuts and encouraging the Administration to perfect their dissemination capabilities so that those in the aging network can benefit from information that AOA has funded and collected.
Finally, we should work together as a team to ensure the final outcome of the Older Americans Act is a product we cannot only be proud of but 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 committee, and the Administration on reauthorization. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Downey follows:]
STATEMENT OF THE 'BON. THOMAS J. DOWNEY
Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Services
tho 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:
1) 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
ly known as to the exact details of that decision, full control over AA'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.
There have beyLUWilly Culls for an expanded, commitment 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 I 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 that the older Americans Act has to bear.