Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Federal Update

Fiscal Year ‘21 Budget

Congress is under an exceedingly tight timetable to pass the budget for FY21, which begins October 1st.  With the election season in full swing, a global pandemic, and a very partisan climate in Washington, it is likely that Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running. Under this scenario, funding will hold steady at FY20 levels until Congress does pass a budget, likely after the election.

COVID Relief Bills

After returning to DC last week from the August recess, the Senate Republican leadership introduced and scheduled a procedural vote on a fourth coronavirus relief bill. This bill, S. 178, was significantly narrower in scope than earlier proposals by the House and Senate. It would have provided up to $300 per week of unemployment benefits and $500 billion in aid to help small businesses and schools reopen. It also included controversial liability relief for businesses and healthcare, including long-term care facilities, which advocates were concerned could put residents at risk.

The bill didn’t include substantive funding for healthcare, individual stimulus payments or any programs supporting older Americans affected by the crisis.

The bill did not advance on a near party line vote of 52 to 47, as the procedural maneuver required 60 votes to move forward. At this point, it is unclear whether any action will be taken on virus relief before the November election. The situation could change quickly, however, and aging advocates should stay tuned for advocacy opportunities.

Older Americans Act Funding

Although no funding bills have been passed because the Senate has yet to act, the House did pass a package of bills that included funding for the Labor/Health and Human Services bill, which includes Older Americans Act funding. The bill included $196.5 Billion, which is $2.4 Billion above the FY20 level and includes:

  • $520 million for congregate meals and $276 million for home-delivered meals (2% increase)
  • $400 million for supportive services (2.5% increase)
  • $206 million for family caregivers (5% increase)
  • $24.7 million for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (9% increase)
  • 1 million for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, SHIP (3.7% increase)

Unfortunately, even with these increases, funding levels are below the approximately 10% increase Congress recommended in the Older Americans Act re-authorization.

State Update

Illinois Legislature

At this point in time, the Illinois General Assembly is not scheduled to meet in-person and procedural rules prevent them from voting remotely. The Senate recently issued guidelines to allow subject matter committees to meet remotely with live streaming. However, as remote voting remains prohibited, these meetings are solely content based. The House has not released any similar remote guidance, so they are not meeting in any official capacity.

In the meantime, AgeGuide continues to advocate on behalf of older adults and to meet with State and Federal Legislators to discuss emerging and ongoing needs during the current health crisis.


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