Here is more important news about the Budget Control Act, often referred to as the debt ceiling deal, and how it could affect our seniors.
If the appointed congressional Super Committee cannot reach consensus or congress doesn't approve their plan, $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board cuts would be triggered through a sequestration process that would take effect in 2013. Exempted programs would be Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.
The Senior Corps Programs (RSVP, Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion) that utilize over a million volunteers nationwide to help needy persons, could be dramatically cut by the Super Committee that struggles to keep total spending under the cap. The cap would remain in place for 10 years so there would be no immediate relief from reduced or frozen levels for Senior Corps programs.
If tax revenues are not included in the second round of deficit reductions, cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will undergo significant cuts in order to reach the $1.2 trillion threshold. While details such as the final FY 2012 spending levels, or what the round of $1.2 trillion deficit reductions will look like, will not be known for months. The size and scope of this deal is, without a doubt, a game changer. The deal will sadly reduce the amount of federal funding available for community-level aging programs at a time when our economy is still struggling and our nation's aging population is exploding. Seniors are living longer but certainly not better.
Super Committee or not, for the time being and the foreseeable future, federal funding for our Senior Corps programs that keep thousands of seniors at home and out of costly institutions will remain wholly dependent on the annual appropriations process. As deficit reduction pressure mounts, so will the pressure on reducing funding for any discretionary programs that don't have the needed political support to keep them going. As witnessed in the FY 2011 appropriations process, the elimination of Learn and Serve America and the nearly $3 million cut to RSVP was likely the result of priority-setting by both the administration and members of congress, who did no investigation whatsoever as to the great contributions these volunteer programs have been making to the country. For 40 years RSVP has made significant cost savings to the budget by keeping thousands of seniors out of costly institutions and in their own homes for years for less than what two days would cost in an institution.
It is very important that seniors and advocates for seniors understand that the ONLY way to influence the Super Committee or any member of congress is by educating them on the cost effective value of Senior Corps programs and going after support from influential members that will champion these programs' causes. When these efforts are successful, funding from congress will follow.
Please contact members of the Super Committee and ask them to support the Senior Corps programs that take care of so many seniors and people in need. It makes fiscal sense. Here are the phone and fax numbers for members of the Super Committee: (The area code is 202)
John Kerry: 224-2742
Dave Camp: 225-3561
Fred Upton: 225-3761
Jon Kyl: 224-4521
Chris Van Hollen:
Patrick Toomey: 224-4254
The House and Senate have nine days in September to complete FY 2012 appropriations so a continuing resolution in an Omnibus bill is likely. Stay tuned!
• Janice Ayres is president of Nevada Senior Corps Association.