Friday, February 12, 2021

Illinois Advocacy Update 

Just in time for Black History Month, AARP and other advocates just released a new reportDisrupt Disparities, which focuses on the issues of economic security, health, and digital connectivity for older adults of color across IllinoisThe report outlines disparities faced by this specific population and makes a series of policy recommendations to remedy these challenges 

This report and policy recommendations are part of a multiyear effort to create systemic policy changes on behalf of older adults of color in Illinois. The goal is to move the needle in Illinois so that older adults across communities can age with the economic, health and digital resources they need to lead healthy, stable and rewarding lives. 

A few highlights about Illinois older adults from the report: 

  • Economic Disparity: 9.3 percent of older adults in Illinois live below the poverty line, with older adults of color more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts. This is especially true of African American/Black older adults who are over three times more likely to live in poverty than white older adults. 
  • Health Disparity: African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American/Pacific Islander older adults suffer significantly higher rates of chronic diseases than their white counterparts. 
  • Digital Disparity: While access to the internet is essential in today’s society, it is particularly beneficial for older adults. In Illinois, more than one-third of African American/Black and Hispanic/ Latinos residents over 55 have no broadband access at home. 

A few policy recommendations from the report: 

  • Expand eligibility for the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to cover caregivers and adults 65 years and older to increase the amount of dollars going directly to African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American/Pacific Islander residents. 
  • Invest in Health Equity Models at the State, county, and municipal level: invest in community-based health equity programs with measurable outcomes on chronic health issues that target African American/ Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American/Pacific Islander communities. 
  • Advocate for city, county and state level legislation to specifically address broadband disparities in low-income and communities of color, including funding for digital literacy programs, and expansion of municipal broadband service. 

The Disrupt Disparities Report contains many more insights and recommendations. View the full report here. 

Federal Legislative Update 

Despite the cold and snow blanketing our own state, things were heating up in Washington this week. The House was advancing several COVIDrelief proposals, including the House Education and Labor bill which includes $1.44 billion in emergency funding for Older Americans Act (OAA) programs and services. This proposal includes: 

  • $470 million for Supportive Services for vaccine support and social isolation mitigation 
  • $750 million for Congregate and Home-Delivered Nutrition Services  
  • $44 million for Evidence-Based Health Promotion  
  • $145 million for family caregiver support  
  • $10 million for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program 

The first item is a particularly noteworthy victory, as it reflects the aging network’s efforts to play a critical role in helping older adults get vaccinatedIt also addresses our legislative priority to address the increased incidence of social isolation and loneliness during the pandemic. 

Another proposal to increase the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for Home and Community Based Services is also in the works in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This includes a 7.35 percent increase for one year, which can be used to support the caregiving workforce, reduce waiting lists, provide PPE/supplies, and more. 

What Happens Next?

Ultimately, these two measures will be merged with several other pieces of legislation from other committees to form one massive COVID-19 relief and recovery bill 

The House will still have to pass the full reconciliation bill later this month, so we cannot rest on our laurels just because Older Americans Act funding is in the draft bill. The Senate will then take up the House measure but Senators are likely to amend the bill, so please stay closely tuned to our updates and speak out! 

If you haven’t yet weighed in with your Federal Representatives and Senators about the urgent need for Older Americans Act emergency funds, it is not too late. Click here to use our advocacy tools and take action now!


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