Area Agency on Aging: The American Rescue Act adds funds to programs benefiting older Americans

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    By Kay Kaylor
    PREVIEW Columnist

    I advocate for residents in skilled nursing and assisted living residences as the regional long-term care ombudsman. I also am trained as a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). The many aging and care concerns will be addressed here.

    The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R.1319), signed into law March 11, adds funds to many programs that benefit older Americans affected by the pandemic. Some grants will be used until they run out, while others are meant only for the duration of the “emergency period.” 

    Published on the website congress.gov, the detailed act has a table of contents page with links to each subsection. Only a few of the numerous programs to receive extra funding, some to last through the pandemic and others up to six years afterward, will be noted here.

     The Department of Veterans Affairs will receive $17 billion extra. Of note for veterans living in facilities, the following is quoted from the va.gov website: “$750 million for both construction grants ($500 million) and payments ($250 million) to State Homes to greatly improve the living conditions of our most vulnerable Veterans who reside in these facilities.” 

     For the Older Americans Act, an additional $1.434 billion will be used to fund its programs until expended. The long-term care ombudsman program will receive $10 million more. Extra services described in the Rescue Plan Act include COVID-19 vaccination outreach and addressing social isolation due to the pandemic.

    Skilled nursing homes are granted $200 million toward infection control and vaccination support through contracts with quality improvement organizations, which already work with facility staff in Colorado. For nursing homes with COVID-19 cases, $250 million will be added for more states to establish and support strike teams (Colorado has one) to help with “clinical care, infection control or staffing.” This assistance continues for one year following the emergency period.

    A portion of another $10 million will be given to the Administration for Community Living to assist families with grandparents age 55 and older raising children. It will establish a National Technical Assistance Center on Grandfamilies and Kinship Families to provide training and resources for multiple programs and organizations, including those for tribes.

    Aging and disability services will receive an additional $276 million, $50 million more will go toward programs for consumer protection against COVID-19 fraud, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will get $1.15 billion more.

    Among the Medicaid coverage changes, support for Home and Community Based Services was increased by 10 percent. These services, such as home and personal care, are meant to help people age in their own homes.

    Funds also were added for emergency rental assistance, housing vouchers, rural housing and homeowner assistance for eligible individuals and families.

    SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare; see sjbaaa.org. For further information, please call 264-0501.