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How the Economic Recovery Act would help seniors


1. COBRA - The House Ways and Means Committee approved COBRA health care continuation provisions included in its economic stimulus bill last week. In addition to a provision requiring the government to essentially pay 65% of the premium for up to 12 months for individuals laid off from September 1, 2008 – December 31, 2009, this bill would directly affect older Americans by allowing employees age 55 and older to retain COBRA coverage, without the subsidy, until they are eligible for Medicare.

2. Jobs for Older Americans - $120 million for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) in order to create 24,000 jobs. The unemployment rate of seniors has increased 60% since last year and is at a 31-year high. The program’s unique community service component provides an additional benefit by helping to address pressing needs in communities across the nation.

3. Senior Nutrition - $200 million for the Senior Nutrition programs (congregate and home-delivered meals). A recent survey found that over 80 percent of states now have waiting lists for the senior meal programs.

4. Medicaid Temporary Increase - $87 billion to increase the Federal Medicaid match rate (FMAP) to provide much-needed relief to states. This is important so that states receiving funds do not cut back on critical services and eligibility, and an increased match for home and community-based services – cost effective, optional services that are in particular jeopardy of being cut and keep seniors out of expensive nursing homes.

5. Additional SSI Payment: $4.2 billion for a one-time additional SSI payment (an average of $450 for an individual and $630 for a couple). This investment for the most vulnerable seniors and disabled will have a significant stimulus effect by being quickly returned into the economy.

6. Prevention and Wellness Fund - $3 billion to fight preventable chronic diseases, including $50 million for injury prevention.


1. COBRA - Unlike the House, the Senate version of the stimulus package does not include the COBRA extension provision for employees 55 and older. Like the House, the Senate bill contains the 65% premium subsidy for recently laid off workers, but it is for 9 months (as opposed to 12 months in the House).

2. Social Security - Citizens receiving Social Security, SSI, Railroad Retirement and Veterans benefits would get a bonus payment of $300 under the Senate version of the economic recovery plan.

3. Senior Meals: $100 million to help senior meals programs cope with steep increases in food and fuel costs. Many programs are reducing meal deliveries to seniors or closing meal sites. The funding in the bill will result in an additional 30 million meals served.

4. Health Information Technology: $5 billion to jumpstart efforts to computerize health records to cut costs and reduce medical errors.

5. Research - $3.5 billion to conduct biomedical research in areas such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and stem cells, and to improve NIH facilities.

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans


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