Monday, May 18, 2020

These are unprecedented times. AgeGuide and the aging network are on the front lines responding to the needs of older adults who are not only medically vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, but are also especially at risk for the negative effects of prolonged social isolation as a result of extended physical-distancing policies. To ensure that older adults who are currently confined to their homes, can overcome this pandemic successfully, we’re monitoring legislation and advocating for proven solutions to keep them safe and healthy.

Federal Updates

To date, Congress has passed three emergency bills:

  • Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act
  • Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The first supplemental package provided funding for government agencies and on-the-ground response. Families First Act and CARES Act both provided direct assistance to local/state governments, individuals, and non-profits, including aging services. This package included $480 million for nutrition programs and expanded the program to include all older adults who are self-isolating. The bill also included $100 million for caregiver support programs, $20 million for elder abuse programs (including ombudsmen), $85 million for Centers for Independent Living, and $50 million for Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). In total, the bills allocated over $2.5 trillion, the largest crisis response in history.

A fourth major bill was passed in the House on May 15, called the HEROES Act. The bill includes many provisions to support older adults, including:

  • More funding for aging programs
  • Nursing home “strike teams”- to ensure PPE and protocols are working to protect residents
  • Increased Federal reimbursement to states for Medicaid
  • Increased Supplemental Nutrition assistance Program (SNAP) benefits

As the bill awaits action in the Senate, there are no plans to take up any new emergency response measures until after Memorial Day, so it could be well into summer before any new emergency funding is available.

State Updates

A May 13th Joint Proclamation announced that the Illinois General Assembly, which has not met since early March due to the coronavirus, will convene for a special session May 20 – 22. The House of Representatives will meet at the Springfield Convention Center and the Senate will meet at the Capitol. These changes will allow enough space for proper physical distancing. Only the following topics will be considered:

  • COVID-19 response
  • State budget
  • Economic recovery and infrastructure projects
  • Format for constitutional amendments going forward
  • Laws scheduled for repeal next year
  • 2020 General Election and the State Board of Elections
  • Hospital assessment program

In an April 15th press release, Governor Pritzker provided an update on the state’s revenue forecast and outlined his efforts to provide fiscal stability during this crisis.

Early projections show Illinois budget deficits of $500 billion over the next two years. The expected general revenue shortfall from the Governor’s 2021 proposed budget is $6 billion. That shortfall expands to $7.4 billion if the graduated income tax amendment does not pass.

As the costs of fighting COVID-19 continue to grow, the Governor directed nearly $500 million in additional spending to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). Much of this spending has been for obtaining personal protective equipment for frontline workers and ventilators to treat patients. Federal funding is expected to reimburse the state for most of these costs.

Advocacy in a Pandemic

Moving forward, AgeGuide and the aging network will need to quickly address and remedy several real consequences from the pandemic – health disparities, the impact of social determinants of health, and greater instances of isolation among older adults.

AgeGuide continues to build relationships and communicate with State and Federal lawmakers to alert them to our services, the needs of older adults, and to advocate for support for older adults and their caregivers throughout this ongoing pandemic.

We are currently advocating for:

  • Adequate state and federal budgets – maintaining the Governor’s FY21 Department on Aging budget and fully funding the Federal Older American’s Act
  • Long-term care facilities – availability of PPE, testing, infectious disease management, staffing, reporting, and social connection with loved ones
  • Caregivers – funding to continue to support quality care for evidenced-based caregiver assessments and interventions
  • Social Isolation – continued funding for virtual programs and the resources to access them

We hope state and federal lawmakers will continue to prioritize the health and safety of older adults by prioritizing these recommendations.


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