Key Federal Programs Supporting Older Adults and Caregivers Eliminated in the President’s FY 2019 Budget
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provides one-on-one assistance and counseling to Medicare beneficiaries whose complex needs require more help than is provided by 1-800-Medicare or medicare.gov. Administered by the U.S. Administration for Community Living, SHIPs rely heavily on highlytrained volunteers and play a critical role in ensuring that older adults and people with disabilities make informed decisions about their Medicare coverage and navigate the complicated and shifting landscape of Medicare choices. SHIP counseling assistance can save individual Medicare beneficiaries hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars every year. (Roughly two-thirds of AAAs operate the local SHIP.) In FY 2017, the SHIP program received $47.1 million. With 10,000 boomers becoming eligible for Medicare every day, SHIP funding should be increased to reflect the increasing number of clients and complexity of Medicare.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), helps low-income older adults afford their utility bills, so they can keep the lights on and stay warm in the winter and safely cool in the summer. While the program is not limited to seniors and helps a wide range of low-income households, the loss of this funding of more than $3.4 billion would directly hurt the seniors who receive the financial help.
The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which is Title V of the Older Americans Act and administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, would also be eliminated in the Trump budget. Losing this $400 million program—the only federal job training program focused on the unique needs of older workers—would immediately affect the approximately 70,000 age 55+ workers who receive skills training, job placement help and subsidized community service jobs annually. Without SCSEP, these very low-income seniors would struggle to find the employment that they need to make ends meet. The tens of thousands of community agencies who host many SCSEP workers would also lose millions of hours of staff support, making it more difficult to achieve their missions to serve older adults, children and youth, and other members of their community.
Three major community-focused federal block grants would be eliminated under the Trump Budget. The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) provides critical flexible support to states to help vulnerable people of all ages to thrive and contribute to the well-being of our nation’s communities. Communities across the nation rely on the HHS-administered SSBG to help at-risk children and youth, people with disabilities, older adults in jeopardy of entering a nursing home or institution. SSBG is also the primary source of federal funding for Adult Protective Services (APS); for some states, SSBG is their only source of APS funding. Cutting SSBG harms vulnerable populations and fundamentally erodes the foundation of support in our communities that helps our country both weather hard times and thrive in times of economic growth.
The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) provides states and localities with flexible funds to improve community health and living conditions for low-income families and seniors by funding free-standing programs.Wwhen there is not enough funding in another community program to meet demand, the HHS-administered CSBG funds provide supplemental support to expand the reach and impact of the existing program. For those age 55 and older, these services may include home-based household and personal care activities, nutritious home-delivered or congregate meals, Adult Protective Services or transportation to and from medical appointments. Approximately one in five individuals served by CSBG are age 55 or older and almost 8 percent are age 70 or older, which means roughly $56 million of CSBG’s total funding of $715 million is directed to helping low-income older adults stay safe, healthy and living independently in the community.
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), works to ensure decent affordable housing, to provide services to the most vulnerable in our communities, and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses. Administered by HUD, CDBG is an important tool for helping local governments tackle serious challenges facing their communities. To a limited degree, some localities use CDBG to supplement their existing home-delivered meals programs (often branded as “Meals on Wheels”).
Finally, the budget eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an independent agency which runs the long-standing, popular Senior Corps programs, specifically Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions and RSVP. Senior Corps is the only national program able to place large numbers of senior volunteers in high-quality volunteer positions, generating 96 million hours of service to communities. When older volunteers provide vital services in their communities, it also helps those volunteers remain engaged in society. Given the health benefits of volunteering, this is a win-win for older adults and the communities they serve.