Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, introduced a motion on Aug. 4 calling for more federal funding for senior programs.
Although purely symbolic, the motion calls attention to funding gaps that will become worse as the senior population grows and more people are in need of care. Koretz called on Congress to increase funding for senior programs and services made possible by the Older Americans Act (OAA). The motion directs the city to lobby leaders in Washington, D.C. to sponsor and support legislation that will boost funding and replace money that has been cut.
“As our population ages, Congress’s tendency to pinch pennies without regard to the real-world impact has not only penalized senior citizens but also endangered some in Los Angeles and all over the U.S.,” Koretz said. “L.A. should be a leader in pushing for Older Americans Act programs to have the money they need.”
The OAA funds family caregiver support, health and wellness programs, job training, long-term care advocates, nutrition programs and transportation programs. It also funds programs to prevent elder abuse and neglect. Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, seconded the motion.
Koretz said funding for OAA programs has decreased more than 17 percent since 2010 while the senior population over 75 has grown by more than 10 percent. The OAA reauthorization signed into law by President Barack Obama in April 2016 guarantees that every state receives an allocation equal to 99 percent of the previous year’s amount, and to adjust the amount to reflect changes in states’ senior populations, according to information provided by Koretz’s office. However, the allocations don’t replace previous cuts, and the reauthorizations opens the door for an additional 3 percent decrease in funding through 2019.
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said he supports more funding for senior programs and is working to increase allocations.
“Federal funding for programs that support a decent quality of life for seniors has been largely flat for more than a decade, just as demand for health, nutrition, housing and other basic services is increasing as the population ages,” Schiff said. “Caring for the elderly is a shared responsibility and the federal government needs to do its part.”
The Los Angeles Department of Aging administers OAA programs in Los Angeles including the Senior Community Services Employment Program and the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program. Federal funding cuts have threatened the programs, especially during the recession, which limited the city’s ability to replace lost federal funds, Koretz said.
“The local aging network of service providers, while resilient, has been hard hit by the loss of these funds,” said Laura Trejo, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Aging. “City leaders have steadfastly supported senior services and through this resolution continue to demonstrate their support to older persons and their families.”
Another advocate for more federal funding for senior programs is Brandi Orton, director of government relations and advocacy for St. Barnabas Senior Services in Hollywood and a member of the Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition. The OAA funds programs administered separately through the city and county of Los Angeles. At St. Barnabas, OAA funding pays for case management, meals and transportation for seniors. Orton provided census statistics that show the senior population is growing significantly.
“In 2010, one in every nine people in the county were over the age of 65. By 2030, one in five in the county will be over 65, and by 2040, it will be one in four,” Orton said. “It’s growing 200 to 300 percent, but funding continues to be slashed. When we are talking about a county like L.A., that’s very startling.”
St. Barnabas provided more than $3.7 million in senior services last year but the OAA funding fell short by $400,000. The service provider was forced to make up the difference through donations and other funding sources. Unless federal funding is increased, the gap will grow each year and many seniors will find themselves struggling in their golden years, she added.
“Sometimes for seniors, it’s the only hot meal they will eat in a day. When you are paying for healthcare costs, it doesn’t leave much left over for meals,” Orton said. “The biggest challenge the county is facing is aging. Our hope is that the funding will match the demographic increases. It’s getting harder and harder for nonprofit service providers to provide the services for seniors when the funding is not keeping up with population increases.”
The motion will next be considered by the city council’s rules, elections, intergovernmental relations and neighborhoods committee.
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