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Older Americans Act: 105th Congress Issues

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Authorization of appropriations for the Older Americans Act expired at the end of FY1995. Legislation to reauthorize the Act was reported by House and Senate authorizing committees in 1996, but was not acted upon by either chamber during the 104th Congress. Action on reauthorization legislation has not yet taken place during 1997.

The 105th Congress may consider legislative proposals that build upon areas of apparent consensus achieved during the 104th Congress. Although there were some areas of bipartisan agreement on some aspects of the bills reported by authorizing committees in 1996, bipartisan agreement to report the bills did not occur in either committee. H.R. 2570 was reported by the Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee (EEO) Committee by a vote of 19 to 16. S. 1643 was reported by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee by a vote of 9 to 7.

The 105th Congress is likely to revisit the issues that remained in controversy at the time the House and Senate bills were reported by the respective committees. These issues include proposals to (1) restructure the senior community service employment program; (2) change the interstate formula for distribution of funds for supportive and nutrition services; (3) revise elder rights protection services; and (4) eliminate certain requirements to target supportive and nutrition services to low income minority older persons.

Themes addressed by H.R. 2570 and S. 1643 in the 104th Congress included consolidating and restructuring certain Older Americans programs, and giving more flexibility to states in the operation of aging service programs. Although there were differences in specific approaches to restructuring the Act, both committee bills moved in the direction of significantly reducing the number of separately authorized Older Americans Act programs.

There appeared to be general bipartisan agreement in both bills around proposals that would have consolidated some programs. This included proposals in both bills to consolidate the authorization of appropriations for the congregate and home-delivered nutrition programs. Agreement also was reached on proposals to allow states to implement policies on cost-sharing by older persons for certain services they receive through Older Americans Act funding.

Funding for the Act in FY1996, FY1997, and FY1998 was continued by appropriations legislation. For further information on funding, see: CRS Report 95-914, Older Americans Act: Programs and Funding.