NCOA calls for equitable vaccine distribution, expanded job training, and more in first 100 days
Arlington, VA (January 21, 2021) – The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well, urges the New Administration and Congress to move quickly to protect older Americans from a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic by building upon the relief bill passed in December 2020.
“Older Americans—especially women and people of color—have been the hardest hit during this pandemic, and they desperately need health and financial support,” said NCOA President and CEO Ramsey Alwin. “COVID-19 has laid bare our nation’s long-standing inequities based on age, race, gender, and income. It has created an even greater urgency to enact solutions now that enable every American to age with health, security, and dignity.”
NCOA is encouraged by the emerging details of the new Administration’s COVID-19 response plan, as well as the bipartisan action late last year that included funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution to high-risk and underserved populations, greater food benefits, and extended rental assistance. But much more relief is needed. NCOA is urging action on four fronts.
1. Invest in a coordinated, equitable vaccine distribution program
NCOA supports President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine goal to administer 100 million doses in the first 100 days of his Administration. The proposed $415 billion is essential to speed vaccination, testing, contact tracing, and purchasing of supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) so desperately needed across the country. The nation needs a coordinated national vaccination plan that is fully funded and implemented with flexibility for municipalities to address local needs. The plan must ensure equitable access to those disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, using culturally competent messaging for older adults in communities of color and hard-to-reach areas in partnership with community-based organizations that serve older adults.
2. Expand job training and unemployment insurance
NCOA supports wider access for older adults to job training and placement programs to enable them to reenter the workforce quickly as the economy reopens. NCOA seeks expanded funding for programs like the Senior Community Service Employment Program and continued unemployment insurance for workers of all ages. Unemployment rates for workers aged 55+ have remained higher than those of mid-career workers throughout the entire pandemic, according to The New School Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.
3. Strengthen the social safety net for all Americans
NCOA calls for policymakers to protect and strengthen programs that enable older adults to remain independent. This includes increased federal funding to states for Medicaid and home care services and enhancements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Even before the pandemic, over 25 million Americans aged 60+ were economically insecure, living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.
4. Increase federal funding for the aging network
NCOA seeks more federal funding for local organizations, such as senior centers and area agencies on aging, that are on the frontlines of the pandemic, ensuring older adults do not go hungry and have the supports they need. This includes health promotion and disease prevention services that can reduce the risk of hospitalization and nursing home placement. While demand for these services has increased, Older Americans Act programs received only modest funding increases this fiscal year, and much more is needed.
“There is no time to waste because lives are at risk,” Alwin said. “We know there are solutions, and we look forward to working with the new Administration and Congress to make them a reality.”
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