Oregon seniors will soon receive more than $18 million of additional support thanks to funding in the American Rescue Plan and a push by Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.
Bonamici said the financial support is a new round of aid to help address the growing needs of seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing funding for meals, vaccination efforts, caregivers, long term care ombuds support, and more programs under the Older Americans Act (OAA).
According to a release from the Bonamici's office, the funding in the American Rescue Plan is in addition to the more than $17.5 million Oregon has already received for OAA programs in previous COVID-19 relief packages. Bonamici said she has also led the effort to increase funding for elder justice programs, which is needed because seniors have faced heightened vulnerability to fraud and abuse during the pandemic. Programs under the Elder Justice Act will receive $276 million nationally from the American Rescue Plan.
Bonamici said the pandemic has hit Oregon's senior population especially hard, jeopardizing health and increasing isolation.
“I’ve heard from older individuals in NW Oregon who are deeply worried about being able to stay safe, keep food in the pantry, and access the services they need to stay healthy and age with dignity," she said. "At the same time, I have heard troubling reports of scammers taking advantage of seniors during this difficult period. I’ve worked with the wonderful support organizations we have in Oregon and across the country to identify what is needed to protect our seniors. The American Rescue Plan builds on the relief funding I have already helped secure to meet the needs of seniors, and it will save lives.”
Local organizations joined Bonamici is praising the American Rescue Plan, and highlighted how the funding will directly benefit the seniors they serve.
Meals on Wheels People
“Meals on Wheels People now delivers 8,000 meals every weekday to older adults throughout the greater Portland-Vancouver metro area, nearly double the number of meals we were producing pre-pandemic,” said Meals on Wheels People CEO Suzanne Washington. “Emergency relief funding is vital to our ability to maintain that high level of production and ensure that every older adult who requests meals receives them without starting a waiting list.”
Oregon State Long-Term Care Ombudsman
“The American Rescue plan is exactly what we need right now to help Oregon’s seniors,” Oregon’s State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Fred Steele said. “People in long-term care have been hit the hardest by this pandemic; it’s tragic what the past twelve months have brought. As we finally begin to see cases decline, the federal money will dramatically improve the lives of the 45,000 Oregonians living in nursing homes, assisted living, memory care and adult foster homes through dedicated vaccine outreach and coordination, reducing social isolation, and supporting Oregon’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman services to help residents.
“Ombudsman programs like Oregon’s have been able to use federal COVID-relief funds to dramatically expand outreach, communication, and education about our program to care facility residents who have had to live in fear of COVID-19. For example, Oregon has recruited an additional 53 volunteers to serve as Certified Ombudsmen in their communities through public service announcement TV ads, postcard campaigns, social media ads and an iPad pilot program. Our now monthly online training certification classes for new volunteers are full through May. These incredible volunteers will be able to directly support over 7,000 Oregonians in care facilities. The American Rescue plan will continue to help those hardest-hit by the pandemic.”
Oregon Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Disabilities (O4AD)
“Oregon’s older adults have been hit in a disproportionately critical way by COVID, as is the case across the US,” Oregon Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Disabilities (O4AD) Executive Director Phil Warnock said. “Older Americans Act funding and the COVID support from stimulus packages including the package passed by the Senate and is now on its way to the House, will be an essential piece of how we as a country help our most vulnerable survive and thrive.
“O4AD, the Oregon Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Disabilities, would like to thank the tremendous efforts of Congresswoman Bonamici and her tireless advocacy to ensure sufficient emergency funding was included for OAA Supportive Services in this package. This will allow Area Agencies in Oregon to provide the in-home supports that keep older adults out of unnecessary or premature facility care and in their home and community. We are able to help older adults get to their vaccinations, coordinate transportation, provide nutrition and meal supports including home-delivered meals and outreach for the needs that our home bound and vulnerable have experienced during the pandemic. O4AD looks forward to our continuing work with Congresswoman Bonamici and the passage of this necessary package to support Oregon’s older adults through this pandemic.”
Multnomah County Aging, Disability & Veterans Services Division
“COVID-19 has placed significant harm on Oregon’s most vulnerable communities, our older adults, and more specifically older adults in communities of color. Because of this, funding from the Older Americans Act is crucial,” said Irma Jimenez, Interim Director, Multnomah County Aging, Disability & Veterans Services Division.
Disability, Aging and Veteran Services, Washington County Department of Health and Human Services
“Oregon’s older adults continue to be deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with even greater impacts to older adults from communities of color,” said Rebecca Miller, AAA Director, Disability, Aging and Veteran Services, Washington County Department of Health and Human Services. “During ordinary times, Older Americans Act (OAA) funding is foundational to helping ensure that older adults have the support they need to age safely at home and to thrive in their communities. Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services (DAVS) has prioritized and allocated OAA funding to culturally responsive organizations, which has helped reach thousands of older adults from communities of color by helping to address the racial disparities that have been highlighted by the pandemic.
“We thank Congresswoman Bonamici for her significant advocacy to ensure that sufficient emergency funding was provided for OAA III B Supportive Services. The flexibility of this program has allowed Washington County DAVS and our partners to address critical needs as they emerge. This includes home-delivered meals and telephone reassurance in the early days of the pandemic, to increased and ongoing respite needs, as well as online counseling to support caregivers who are facing the disruption of their natural support systems. In addition, these funds help ensure access to information, technology, and transportation as we connect people to life-saving resources, including COVID-19 vaccines.”
NorthWest Senior and Disability Services
“Older Americans Act funding is critical to the work NorthWest Senior & Disability Services does in Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Clatsop and Tillamook Counties,” said Tanya DeHart, Executive Director, NorthWest Senior and Disability Services, in Salem. “This funding supports vital services that assist older adults to age safely at home, supporting their caregivers and now supporting access to vaccinations for those most vulnerable in our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought increased demand for home-delivered meals, information and referral and other Older Americans Act services. We thank Rep. Bonamici for her significant advocacy to ensure that the needs of older adults are recognized and supported.”