Saturday, January 14, 2012

Freeholder Vicari calls for renewal of Older Americans Act


TOMS RIVER – Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act by Washington is more important now than ever.

"I have already written to our Senators and Congressmen representing us in Washington urging them to support reauthorization of the Older Americans Act when its introduced in late January as the 112th Congress begins," said Vicari, Chairman of Senior Services. "The reauthorization of this Act provides an ideal opportunity for Congress to ensure that the aging network can meet the needs of current and future populations of older adults and their caregivers."

Noting that more than 160,000 older adults live in Ocean County, Vicari said that any decreases in the funding provided under the Older Americans Act would have a detrimental affect on programs and services that help seniors live independently.

"During these difficult economic times, it is no longer plausible for Ocean County government to continuously step in and plug funding holes when appropriations from the state and federal government decrease," Vicari said. "We can no longer make up the funding difference as we have done in the past. It's time for the federal government to provide us with our fair share."

The Older Americans Act helps fund programs such as home-delivered and congregate meals, transportation, employment services, legal assistance, chore and personal care, all of which help older adults remain in the much preferred setting of their homes and communities, Vicari stated in his letter to U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg and U.S. Reps. Christopher Smith and Jon Runyan.

Vicari said he believed Ocean County's funding should increase under the act based on the 2010 Census figures.

"Ocean County is unique with over 26 percent of our population 60 years and over," Vicari noted. "Regarding the 65 and over cohort, our percentage is 21 percent compared to New Jersey's at 13.5 percent and the U.S. at 13 percent.

"Furthermore, Ocean County's 21 percent is higher than Florida with its 17.3 percent and we have two municipalities – Manchester and Berkeley townships – with the highest percentage of citizens 85 years old and over in the United States," Vicari said.

Vicari said that in the past, he has told the federal leaders that funding for the Older Americans Act services has remained flat or been reduced. Concurrently, the number of older adults has increased at a rate higher than any other age group and inflation has further eroded the purchasing power of the funding received under the act.

"It's important to note that programs funded by the OAA have lost considerable service capacity, causing many frail and needy older adults to be placed on waiting lists for supportive services, adding to their emotional, physical and financial hardships," Vicari said. "Additionally, state budget cuts have only exacerbated the problem.

"A larger federal investment in core OAA services and supports is needed to ensure the aging network has the necessary resources in the years ahead to adequately serve the projected growth in the number of older adults," he said.

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