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Economic Stimulus? Not Likely For Seniors

New America Media, News Analysis, Paul Kleyman Posted: Feb 18, 2009

Now that President Obama has signed legislation earmarked to stimulate the comatose American economy, the law will likely not place a high priority on the construction of senior centers or housing projects for low-income older people. Nor will it help pay for cars used in home delivery meal programs.

But those are some of the sorely-needed projects on the wish lists of states in the process of cutting vital services for older Americans, according to a report released by the National Association of States Units on Aging or NASUA. Without help, states plan to cut back on projects and services under the federal Older Americans Act (OAA), which help low-income, minority and rural elders.

NASUA recently made this stark assessment after the organization queried many states offices on aging.

Nearly 70 percent of Americas states are anticipating cuts in programs for older adults and individuals with disabilities in 2009, even as the demand for services explodes in the face of a weakened economy, reads the report, which was released in January.

States are also exploring ways to shift costs to low-income elders through copayments and other client contributions, NASUA reported. States might also reduce their income eligibility standards for Medicaid programs.

In some states, an elder who currently would qualify for Medicaid assistance might suddenly have to show one-third less income to qualify for help. States are also examining whether to freeze rates for provider services.

NASUA said its survey results mirror findings by the National Governors Association and National Association of State Budget Directors.

One troubling trend: NASUA found an increase of calls for adult protective services, the arm in government that investigates abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults or people with disabilities.

The association says that the federal stimulus package should include construction projects currently on hold for senior resource centers. Also on NASUAs wish list is a federal boost to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. The report said this would enable many more impoverished elders to eat healthy and local, while also supporting regional farmers.

NASUA President Patricia Polansky, assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Division of Aging and Community Services, put it succinctly:

"These programs are the critical lifeline that keeps many older Americans across the country in their homes and communities, rather than in institutional settings, where the costs are significantly higher, she said in a written press release statement.

NASUAs survey and follow-up report are available online at www.nasua.org.

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