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Older Americans Act Reauthorization Approved by House Subcommittee

On May 10, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Select Education approved, by voice vote, the Senior Independence Act of 1996 (H.R. 5293), legislation to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA). Provisions of the bill were discussed at a hearing by the subcommittee on May 2 (see The Source, 5/5/06).

First enacted in 1965, the OAA provides the federal framework for a variety of services for elderly citizens, including employment assistance, health screening and treatment, exercise and recreation, and nutrition programs such as Meals on Wheels. The law was reauthorized for five years in 2000 (see The Source, 10/27/00).

H.R. 5293 would target services to promote home and community-based care placements and avoid institutional care. The bill would emphasize disease prevention and evidence-based health promotion services, including a focus on nutrition education and services, physical activity, and improved health literacy. Older individuals with limited English proficiency would be identified as a target population. The bill also would make changes to the community service employment-based training program, including giving priority to individuals over age 65, and requiring grantees to achieve an average time limit of two years for their participants in an effort to serve more individuals and to move participants to unsubsidized work.

In a bipartisan subcommittee press release, subcommittee chair Pat Tiberi (R-OH) stated, “The legislation we approved today recognizes the changing needs of older Americans and promotes services that are responsive to those needs. It modernizes the way Americans think about the aging network and recognizes the Older American Act’s critical role in keeping older Americans well and living independently.”

Ranking Member Rubén Hinojosa noted, “The voices of the aging network have come through loud and clear: reauthorize the Older Americans Act. I am pleased that we are working together to do that. Our seniors deserve no less.”

A substitute amendment by Rep. Tiberi was adopted by voice vote. Among the provisions, the substitute would add caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease to those eligible to receive services under the National Family Caregiver Support Program, and would support the development and implementation of “technology-based service models and best practices, to support the use of health monitoring and assessment technologies…that may remotely connect family and professional caregivers to frail elderly residing in home- and community-based settings.” Caregiver support would include grandparents and relative caregivers who provide care to individuals age 19 or older.

An amendment by Rep. Luis Fortuño (R-PR) to provide family caregiver support to grandparents or other relatives who are caregivers of a disabled individual was approved by voice vote.

The full committee is expected to consider the bill in the next few weeks.

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