WASHINGTON WATCH: Senior programs at risk – again
It seems that Republican Representative and House Budget Director Paul Ryan has never seen a senior program he wouldn’t like to eliminate. Yes, he is at it again! It is either two or three times now that Ryan has tried to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which funds the Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion and RSVP programs (Senior Corps).
The Senior Companion and RSVP programs are 40 years old this year and have worked very hard during all those years to help low-income seniors remain at home and out of costly institutions by providing trained senior volunteers to assist them with their everyday basic needs. There is no charge for the services, which are very cost-effective because volunteers receive no wages.
There is now a new House budget resolution that once again calls for the elimination of CNCS and the threat of sequestration, which would cut every domestic and defense program by 9 percent in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. I wonder what former President Ronald Reagan would think about this, as he was an ardent supporter of the Senior Corps Programs, as was Nancy Reagan, who made the Foster Grandparent Program her main priority as first lady. President Reagan not only highly recommended and supported funding, but also held recognition events in the Rose Garden for RSVP directors and outstanding RSVP volunteers. I was invited one year and took a 92-year-old RSVP volunteer from Fallon named Francis Aquirre with me. We got to meet the president, and he was very charming and complimentary of our RSVP program. It was the year a reporter asked Reagan what RSVP meant, and he said, “It’s French for ‘Come again.'” Of course, we all tried not to laugh, but it wasn’t easy, and of course the newspapers had a field day with that!
I can’t help but wonder how we went from a Republican president who thought we were the greatest to a Republican House that can’t wait to do us in. In fact, I can’t remember an administration – Republican or Democrat – that didn’t appreciate and honor volunteers in the three Senior Corps programs of CNCS, which also funds AmeriCorps Programs mainly for youth, VISTA volunteers and other programs.
President Bill Clinton was so impressed with volunteer service that he started the AmeriCorps Program so youth could have a program for volunteering. He invited me to the White House on the fifth anniversary of AmeriCorps, where he recognized all volunteer programs for doing so much for America. Supportive speakers that day were Colin Powell, Coretta Scott King, Sargent Shriver, who started the Peace Corps, and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. But the best of all were the young people who spoke about how AmeriCorps had changed their lives for the better. The Senior Companion and RSVP programs and others were initiated, funded and supported by Republican President Richard Nixon. So what’s wrong here?
If you are a Senior Corps Volunteer or client, or just wish to support the programs, please contact Nevada Reps. Joe Heck, Mark Amodei and Shelley Berkley and Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller and ask them to support Senior Corps programs for fiscal year 2013 at a level no less than proposed by the president, and vote against eliminating CNCS.
As stated in a previous column, if CNCS is eliminated, more than 1 million volunteers would get pink-slipped. It makes no sense, but little in Washington, D.C., does these days because of the upcoming presidential election. Let’s hope things get better when it’s over. Stay tuned!
• Janice Ayres is immediate past president of the Nevada Senior Corps Association.