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Mr. Chairmen, I am pleased to be here today as the House Select Committee on Aging and the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Human Resources discuss the major issues affecting the reauthorization of the older Americans Act. I am looking forward to hearing the expert testimony of our distinguished panel of witnesses, and I welcome them here.
The older Americans Act, administered by the Administration on Aging under the Department of Health and Human Services, provides an array of services for the elderly who are 60 years of age and older regardless of income. Knowing of the important services that have been provided by the older Americans Act such as social services, nutrition and meal services including congregate and home delivered meals, job placement and training services, as well as legal services, it is imperative that we once again work to strengthen the Act through this year's reauthorization.
I am very interested in addressing minority participation in the older Americans Açt. Too often, the low-income and minority elderly are not receiving the benefits and services of the older Americans Act. It is my hope that through today's discussion of issues such as data collection and targeting we can address minority participation with more insight and understanding.
Again, Chairman Roybal and chairman Martinez, thank you for calling this important hearing.
John Paul Hammerhunt
SELECT COMMITTEE ON AGING
9:30 AM, 2175 RAYBURN
APRIL 25, 1991
THANK YOU MR. CHAIRMAN. I WOULD FIRST LIKE TO THANK THE MEMBERS OF
THE EDUCATION AND LABOR SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES, MY COLLEAGUES ON
THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON AGING, AND THE EXPERT WITNESSES WITH US TODAY FOR
PARTICIPATING IN THIS IMPORTANT HEARING ON MAJOR ISSUES AFFECTING THE
REAUTHORIZATION OF THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT. I KNOW THAT BOTH COMMITTEES
HAVE DEVOTED MUCH TIME AND ENERGY TO OBTAINING INPUT FROM SENIORS, SERVICE
PROVIDERS AND ADMINISTRATORS, AMONG OTHERS, IN PREPARATION FOR THE
REAUTHORIZATION OF THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT AND ITS PROGRAMS.
SINCE ITS ENACTMENT IN 1965, THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT HAS GROWN TO BE
THE PRIMARY PROGRAM RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING A WIDE ARRAY OF SERVICES TO
PERSONS SIXTY YEARS OF AGE AND OLDER.
THESE SERVICES INCLUDE CONGREGATE
AND HOME DELIVERED MEALS, SOCIAL AND LEGAL SERVICES, JOB TRAINING AND
PLACEMENT, AS WELL AS OMBUDSMAN SERVICES. WHILE THE ACT HAS BEEN VERY
SUCCESSFUL IN HELPING MILLIONS OF AMERICANS MAINTAIN THEIR INDEPENDENCE AS
THEY GROV OLDER, THERE ARE SOME AREAS WHICH NEED TO BE ADDRESSED AS VE
ENTER THE REAUTHORIZATION PROCESS.
ONE MATTER OF PARTICULAR CONCERN TO MYSELF AND MANY OF MY COLLEAGUES
HAS BEEN THE DELIVERY OF SERVICES TO LOV INCOME AND MINORITY ELDERLY.
WHILE OUR ELDERLY POPULATION CONTINUES TO GROW AT EVER-INCREASING RATES,
BUDGETARY CONSTRAINTS HAVE ALSO INCREASED. BECAUSE THE RESOURCES TO MEET
THE NEEDS OF THIS RAPIDLY GROVING POPULATION ARE DIFFICULT TO FIND,
IMPERATIVE THAT THE LIMITED FUNDS REACH THE MOST NEEDY INDIVIDUALS.
AVARE THAT MANY STATES HAVE DEVELOPED "INTRA-STATE FUNDING FORMULAS" IN AN
EFFORT TO COMPLY WITH THE MANDATE OF THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT TO TARGET
THOSE SENIORS IN GREATEST ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL NEED. CLARIFYING THE
COMMISSIONER ON AGING'S AUTHORITY TO APPROVE OR DISAPPROVE INTRA-STATE
FUNDING PLANS VOULD ENSURE THAT STATES ARE COMPLYING VITH THE INTENT OF
MEMBERS OF BOTH THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON AGING AND THE EDUCATION AND
LABOR SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES HAVE DONE A THOROUGH JOB IN
EXAMINING PARTICIPATION AND SERVICE DELIVERY UNDER THE OLDER AMERICANS
ACT. AS TE CONSIDER LEGISLATION TO REAUTHORIZE THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT, I
ASK THAT MY COLLEAGUES ON THE EDUCATION AND LABOR SUBCOMMITTEE CONSIDER
VAYS IN WHICH VE CAN ASSIST STATES IN PROVIDING SUBSTANTIAL SERVICES TO
ALL SENIOR CITIZENS, WHILE TARGETING THOSE OLDER AMERICANS WHO HAVE
THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT HAS PROVED TO BE A MOST EFFECTIVE VEHICLE FOR
PROVIDING SERVICES TO SENIORS.
IT IS MY HOPE THAT THROUGH THE
REAUTHORIZATION PROCESS THIS YEAR, WE CAN CONTINUE THOSE PROGRAMS WHICH
HAVE PROVEN SUCCESSFUL WHILE ADDING IMPROVEMENTS TO ENSURE THEIR SUCCESS
FOR YEARS TO COME.
Chairman ROYBAL. Now, ladies and gentlemen, you and the witnesses have heard from members of the committee. Now the members of the committee will hear from the witnesses. After each person has testified, we will adopt the 5-minute rule, meaning each member of the committee will have 5 minutes in which the witness will be questioned.
I am going to do my very best to see to it that it does not exceed more than 5 minutes. However, you know how difficult it is sometimes to stop an answer or even a question, especially one that is so important not only to the individual that is asking the question but also to the witness.
The first panel this morning will be Dr. Joyce Berry, Commissioner of the Administration on Aging. Will you proceed, Dr. Berry, in any manner that you may desire. STATEMENT OF JOYCE T. BERRY, PH.D, U.S. COMMISSIONER ON
AGING, ADMINISTRATION ON AGING Ms. BERRY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to appear before the Subcommittee on Human Resources and the Select Committee on Aging and all of the members here today to offer comments on the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. As we deliberate on the issues related to the reauthorization, I believe it is important to keep in mind the overall objectives of the Act and to determine ways in which modification to the statute can move us in the direction of meeting the objectives.
I know, Mr. Chairman, that you and other members of the committee are concerned that older persons have adequate opportunities for employment, suitable housing, adequate transportation services at a reasonable cost, and other necessary supportive services.
No one would dispute, Mr. Chairman, that the network of State and Area Agencies on Aging has a track record of achievement and building comprehensive systems of services to older persons throughout the Nation. There are many committed individuals with proven credibility who have served as leaders in aging at the State and community levels for a number of years.
At five forums in Atlanta, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Denver, I listened to those professionals share with me some of their concerns related to the Act. I value their input and I know you do also, Mr. Chairman, and do the other members. It is important to put the viewpoints of the forum participants in perspective. Officials of the network on aging are faced daily with the task of trying to fulfill the objectives of the Older Americans Act. Increasingly, their programs of services are strained by the growing numbers of seniors, some of whom are physically and mentally impaired, some of whom live in rural areas and some of whom are economically and socially deprived. The demographics make it clear that these increasing demands for services will continue.
I believe our network has been responsive, creative, well-intentioned, and accountable in the delivery of services. The comments of the participants at the forums reflect their experience, knowledge, insight, and judgment.
ying to of the newpoints, and do I value th
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In summary, Mr. Chairman, the participants told me that business as usual in Older Americans Act programs would not enable the network to meet the challenges of the future. The participants spoke of the high costs of transportation services, the growing numbers of inquiries from the “old old” who need services in the home, and the increasing challenge of keeping up with the growing demands.
As a result, network officials recommended that services be more focused on those in special need, as mandated in the law and particularly reinforced in the 1987 amendments. There was concern that in view of the growing numbers of seniors on waiting lists and those not yet touched by outreach efforts our emphasis should be placed on the socially and economically deprived.
I recommend, Mr. Chairman, that we step up our efforts to strengthen the Act in this regard. Participants in our forums particularly focused on the Title III intrastate funding formula. Many urged me to do more than simply review the way funds are distributed. They emphasized the need for action to assure that resources are directed to the areas in each state where they are most needed.
Network officials also ask for more flexibility in implementing Older Americans Act programs at the local level, particularly in developing procedures and innovations that result in expansion of services for those in need. I heard not one network official talk about positioning his or her agency in order to obtain financial benefits for the agency. Rather, I heard statements related to ways Older Americans Act funds could be leveraged to draw in additional resources to serve the poor and needy.
In this regard, Mr. Chairman, I believe we should permit and encourage the network to establish public/private partnerships, not to the detriment of the poor and needy, but to the benefit of the growing numbers in need by expanding services. There are ways to safeguard this public/private partnership to assure full compliance with the Act.
Network officials, not advocacy groups but network officials, Mr. Chairman, those charged with the current responsibility for serving seniors, those who have to face older persons every day, or listen to their calls for help by phone, or read the many letters as I do daily in which older persons make it clear that they are on the edge of total dependency; these network officials believe that it is time we give them the option of asking older persons who can do so to help out with the cost of services.
Officials of the network believe that permitting more affluent older persons to assist with service costs is consistent with the values of the elderly as we know. They do not want charity. They are very giving, as evidenced by the contributions they make to create room for more at the table. The Older Americans Act program is special in that the dignity of older persons is protected. That must continue. I believe our network officials are skilled at ensuring and safeguarding the privacy of older persons. I further believe that stepped-up efforts to assure proper targeting of services will ensure greater protection for minorities and the economically and socially needy.
There are many other areas of concern, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Sullivan and I are particularly interested in additional emphasis