The Biden administration is releasing $1.4 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan for Older Americans Act programs. Distributed by the Administration for Community Living, a chunk of the funds will go toward home- and community-based services.
President Joe Biden originally signed the American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief package, into law on March 11.
The Older Americans Act programs will fund efforts related to vaccine outreach and coordination. It will also support programs targeting social isolation, family caregivers and senior nutrition.
The Older Americans Act programs have already drawn support from Washington, D.C.-based aging services nonprofit LeadingAge and home health trade group the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).
“We support further, long-term investment in aging services as the infrastructure proposal takes shape,” Brendan Flinn, director of Medicaid and home- and community-based services at LeadingAge, told Home Health Care News in an email.
Of the $1.4 billion being released, $460 million will be set aside for home- and community-based services (HCBS), including household chores, grocery shopping, transportation and case management. These funds will also be used to vaccinate seniors.
“The White House proposal to invest $460 billion toward HCBS and other legislative proposals show promise toward meeting this need.”
The initiative also puts aside $750 million for meals for seniors who would’ve otherwise participated in meal programs at community centers. This includes home-delivered meals as well as “drive-through” or “grab-and-go” meals.
Broadly, the initiative addresses the social determinants of health, a phrase that has become a focal point within the U.S. health care system. Over the years, there has been a growing recognition of the ways socioeconomic and environmental factors impact differences in health status.
Some of the money — $145 million — will also go toward helping family and informal caregivers. This includes counseling, respite care, training and more.
In the U.S. alone, almost 44 million people step in as informal caregivers. These are spouses, partners, friends or family members who assist with activities of daily living (ADLs) and possibly even medical tasks, according to San Francisco-based nonprofit Family Caregiver Alliance.
“We applaud the efforts of the administration to initiate expanded supports for senior citizens who are aging in place,” NAHC President William A. Dombi told HHCN in an email. “The actions announced [this week] are valuable first steps. We look forward to working with the administration to continue these essential efforts to address the growing needs of seniors.”
The initiative also sets aside $44 million for evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention, including programs to address fall prevention, managing a chronic disease, and programs to detect and reduce depression among seniors.
Falls continue to be an ongoing hazard for older adults, as about 3 million seniors are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries annually, according to CDC statistics.
Supporting programs aimed at preventing social isolation will go a long way, as the demand for behavioral health services continues to rise. In fact, 52% of behavioral health organizations have seen a spike in the demand for their services, according to a survey from the National Council for Behavioral Health.
This move from the Biden administration falls in line with its infrastructure proposal — the American Jobs Plan. The proposal, unveiled last month, aims to increase funding for home- and community-based by $400 billion.
The American Jobs Plan also pushes for the expansion of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program, which allows certain Medicaid users to move from a nursing home back into the home.