The President Signs Into Law Bipartisan Legislation Cosponsored by Senators Shaheen, Hassan to Reauthorize the Older Americans Act

March 26, 2020

Bipartisan Legislation Increases Funding for Meals on Wheels and Other Programs that Are Especially Critical for Seniors Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic 

Latest Senate-Passed COVID-19 Response Package Also Includes Additional $500 Million for Nutrition Service Programs, Including Meals on Wheels 

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed into law bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, which will strengthen and increase funding for Meals on Wheels and other programs critical to older Americans.

Given the impact of COVID-19 on older Americans’ health and economic stability, this reauthorization is particularly important. Since 1965, the Older Americans Act has supported and improved the lives of seniors — particularly low-income seniors — through programs that improve transportation options, support caregivers, offer employment and community service opportunities, prevent abuse and neglect, and support nutrition, including Meals on Wheels. This year’s reauthorization includes increased funding for these programs, and also takes additional measures including increasing the focus on addressing detrimental impacts of social isolation.

The latest Senate-passed COVID-19 response package also includes an additional $500 million for Meals on Wheels and other nutrition service programs.

“As a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, millions of seniors are facing tremendous risks to their health, safety and well-being and need our support now more than ever,” Senator Shaheen said. “I’m very pleased that the Supporting Older Americans Act is now law, because it reauthorizes and bolsters important meal programs, like Meals on Wheels, which provide nutritional assistance to aging Granite Staters. These programs are especially critical to seniors amid this pandemic as we rely on local organizations to step up and help ensure our vulnerable populations are able to safely access basic necessities and services. I’ll keep to fighting to ensure seniors and all Americans receive the resources they need to live safe, healthy and full lives.”

“Older Americans face immense challenges right now – not only is their health at high risk if they were to contract COVID-19, but many older Americans are also increasingly struggling to go about their daily lives, from ensuring that they have food and groceries to paying their bills to maintaining their mental health as they self-isolate,” Senator Hassan said. “The reauthorization of the Older Americans Act is a significant step forward in supporting Meals on Wheels and other critical programs that promote the health and well-being of older Americans. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, I will continue working across the aisle to help support seniors and other vulnerable populations.”

Specifically, the bipartisan bill will:

  • Reauthorize the Older Americans Act for five years with funding levels that better meet the growing needs, including a 7 percent increase in the initial year, and 6 percent increase annually for the remainder of the authorization;
  • Extend the RAISE Family Caregivers Act for one additional year;
  • Extend the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Council for one year;
  • Increase the focus on addressing detrimental impacts of social isolation;
  • Improve the availability of transportation resources to seniors;
  • Enhance flexibility for states to better address the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren;
  • Ensure that those living with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease are included in key Older Americans Act services;
  • Improve elder abuse prevention activities through increased outreach and education activities;
  • Increase transparency of home-modification opportunities for eligible older adults.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan are working to protect and support high-risk individuals from COVID-19, including seniors. The senators recently joined their colleagues in introducing a bill to mitigate the risks that COVID-19 poses to seniors and people who experience disabilities. The senators also pressed the Coronavirus Task Force on the steps the administration is taking to protect the health and safety of nursing home residents, workers and their families.

Additionally, in January, Senator Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Hassan sent a letter with the New Hampshire congressional delegation calling on the Trump Administration to boost funding for the Older Americans Act in his budget proposal to Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2021. More than 30,000 seniors in New Hampshire rely on the Meals on Wheels program, which operates under the Older Americans Act, for nutritious food. The program has become strained for resources in parts of the state as New Hampshire keeps up with an aging population, and now has become even more strained as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.