Congress Approves Sarbanes Legislation To Better Coordinate Senior Housing & Services Needs

Will Help Seniors “Age In Place”

The Congress has given final approval and sent to President Bush for signature an initiative sponsored by Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD), that would establish a high level executive office to better coordinate housing, health care, transportation, and the related needs of senior citizens in our country so that older Americans can age in place and access needed services. The “Interagency Coordinating Committee,” would be comprised of the Secretaries of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as other Cabinet members and high-ranking offices from agencies that oversee programs of significant importance to the lives of older Americans.

Under the Sarbanes initiative, which was approved by the Senate in November 2005 and incorporated into the reauthorization of the “Older Americans Act of 2006,” the Interagency Coordinating Committee will conduct a thorough review of all federal programs and services designed to assist seniors with their housing needs, identify gaps in services, recommend how to reduce duplication, identify best practices for relevant programs and services, and work to improve the availability of housing and services for seniors. The Committee would also monitor, evaluate, and recommend improvements in existing programs and services that assist seniors in meeting their housing and service needs at the federal, state and local level.

“As our senior population continues to increase so will the demand for affordable housing and service options,” said Sarbanes. “This is a matter of concern not only for those who will need the services but for families as well. It concerns communities all across the country, as productive and responsible citizens grow older and need help. And when we talk about the housing needs of our senior citizens, we are not only discussing bricks and mortar. Seniors must be able to access needed health supports, transportation, meal and chore services, and assistance with daily tasks in or close to their homes. Without needed supports, seniors and their families face difficult and even daunting decisions.”

“While there are numerous federal programs that assist seniors and their families in meeting their needs, they are fragmented across many government agencies, with little or no coordination. It is essential that we make it easier for seniors and their families to access housing and supportive services together, so that when faced with difficult decisions, they do not have to navigate a confusing maze of programs and services, and navigate through a complex web of bureaucracies and offices in order to find and access the housing and services they need, many with their own requirements and eligibilities.

“Through the establishment of this Interagency Committee, it is my hope that we will be able to move towards a model of providing housing and services to seniors around the country, thereby helping them to comfortably age in place,” Sarbanes concluded.

Sarbanes credited the efforts of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Michael Enzi (R-WY), and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) for helping to move the legislation forward.

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