NCOA works to ensure all seniors have equitable access to food, jobs, and the COVID-19 vaccine
Arlington, VA (December 23, 2020) – The following is a statement by Ramsey Alwin, President & CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA), in response to Congressional passage of a $2.3 trillion year-end legislative package.
“The bill that Congress passed on December 21 includes provisions that will improve the lives of vulnerable older adults, who represent 80% of COVID-19 fatalities nationwide. However, many more investments and policy changes will be needed in 2021 to ensure that all seniors have access to food, jobs, and the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The legislation addresses the immediate challenge of food insecurity, which has worsened throughout the pandemic. It increases Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by 15% for 6 months and provides $188 million for nutrition programs and healthy food boxes for older adults.
“It also takes an important step forward in ensuring equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine. It provides $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, including targeted funds for high-risk and underserved populations, such as older adults of color and those in rural areas.
“In addition, the package maintains funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, adds $100 million for elder justice, and includes improvements to Medicare and Medicaid. It eliminates the coverage wait when people sign up for Medicare and adds $12.5 million in annual funding for efforts to find and enroll low-income Medicare beneficiaries into programs that help them afford their health care. It also extends Medicaid home and community-based services that allow older adults to receive care at home.
“The legislation does fall short in important areas. It does not provide COVID-19 relief to expand federal funding to states for Medicaid and home care services, provide additional resources for job training and placement for older workers, or increase support for the tireless efforts of the aging services network, which serves older adults in communities every day.
“While this package is a solid first step, much more work needs to be done to protect and strengthen the programs we all depend on as we age. We look forward to working with the incoming Biden Administration and Congressional leaders who have pledged to provide additional relief and stimulus early next year.”
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