Emergency Funding Included Older Americans Act (OAA) and Other Key Aging Programs
FOR ANTIGO TIMES
*Includes excerpts from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) Legislative Updates
In the early morning hours of Thurs. morning the Senate unanimously approved a massive $2.2 trillion bill—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act S. 3548/HR. 748 —which would send an unprecedented level of emergency response funding and economic stimulus into the sputtering economy. The bill makes investments into nearly every corner of the economy as the country continues to reel from the health and economic consequences of the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, which is expected to pass the House and go to the President for approval as early as today (3/27/20), includes substantial emergency funding investments in Older Americans Act (OAA) and other aging programs. This is the third, and to date the most robust, round of congressional action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has transformed life in nearly every community over the past month.
The Senate-passed bill reflects $870 million for Older Americans Act programs, including:
- $480 million in flexible Title III C1 and C2 nutrition services;
- $200 million for Title III B supportive services;
- $20 million for Title VI Native American aging program nutrition services;
- $100 million for Title III E family caregiver support services;
- $20 million for Title VII elder rights protection activities; and
- $50 million for Aging and Disability Resource Centers.
This emergency funding will be available for states, area agencies on aging (AAAs) – counties and tribes – to use through September 30, 2021. Additionally, many of the funding flexibilities—intended to enable states, AAAs, counties and tribes to target funding toward swiftly changing community needs—were included in the final package. It is n4a’s understanding that these flexibilities would apply only to the emergency funding allocated in the CARES Act. Specifically, the bill would allow 100 percent transfer authority between OAA Title III C1 and C2 funding streams and relaxes dietary guidelines to ensure that local providers are able to accommodate the increasing demand for home-delivered meals while facing limitations in the supply chain during the pandemic. Additionally, the bill expands the definition of “homebound” to clarify that older adults who are self-isolating are eligible to receive services. (Both the CARES Act and the previous emergency funding measure waive state match for these OAA dollars.)
Furthermore, the bill guarantees either in-person or virtual access to nursing home residents for long-term care ombudsman services under Title VII of the OAA. This measure was included as a response to instances of ombudsmen being prohibited from accessing long-term care facilities.
Funding for Other Critical Programs
The CARES Act includes emergency funding for other critical state and community block grant programs, which supplement and support the work of the Aging Network. Lawmakers have included $1 billion for the Community Services Block Grant, which would more than double the flexible funding provided to states under this program. Additionally, funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was boosted by $900 million for services to assist low-income households and families, including large numbers of older adults, with heating and energy bills.
An additional $15.5 billion is included in the CARES Act to respond to the anticipated rise in needs and requests for food support under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as to reflect the eligibility expansions that were included in the second stimulus bill signed into law last week. SNAP provides nutrition support to more than four million older adults nationwide.
Key Medicaid and Medicare Provisions
The CARES Act extends funding for several critical Medicaid and Medicare programs that were otherwise facing a May expiration date. The bill extends authorization of and funding for the Medicaid Money Follows the Person program (MFP) and Medicaid HCBS Spousal Impoverishment Protections through November 30, 2020. Additionally, funding for AAAs, SHIPs and ADRCs to conduct Medicare outreach and enrollment assistance activities for low-income beneficiaries (MIPPA) would continue through November.
The CARES Act also includes several provisions to expand telehealth services during the outbreak, and ensures that Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance eliminate cost-sharing for COVID-19-related testing.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Senate approval of the CARES Act comes one week after the President signed a second emergency funding bill – Families First Coronavirus Response Act – H.R. 6201– which included $250 million in emergency funding for OAA Congregate, Home-Delivered and Native American Nutrition Services. Funding has been provided to states, territories, and tribes for subsequent allocation to local meal providers. The additional federal funds that will be available by state can be found here. States are now working quickly to get update funding numbers for local meal providers.
Older Americans Act Reauthorization
Last, but certainly not least, early this week the President signed the Older American Act Reauthorization into law. Some of the key provisions included in the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 (H.R. 4334) include:
- Reauthorizing the OAA for five years through FY 2024;
- Increasing authorized funding levels: a seven percent increase is recommended for the first year, with six percent increases in each subsequent year through FY 2024, totaling a 35 percent increase over five years;
- Language clarifying that AAAs can, outside of the OAA, engage in private pay, integrated care and other arrangements to expand services;
- Removing the Title III E funding cap on grandfamilies and older relative caregivers;
- Authorizing an HCBS grant demonstration program for Title VI Native American aging programs to enhance the capacity of Title VI programs to support wrap-around supportive services to Native American elders in tribal country. The bill also authorizes $500k in additional annual funding for Title VI programs;
- Malnutrition screening for older adults;
- Authority to provide caregiver and long-term care services to those with Alzheimer’s disease at any age; and
- Establishing a research, demonstration and evaluation center for the Aging Network to improve assessment and promote advancement of the relationship between OAA programs and services and health outcomes.
For more information see: Supporting-Older-Americans-Act-of-2020-Section-by-Section.pdf