The National Council on Aging (NCOA) launched an Economic Security Initiative that includes both community-based support services and national advocacy efforts at the Aging in America Conference, a national symposium on aging issues that took place in Chicago last week.
With $1 million in grant support from the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, NCOA’s Economic Security Service Centers will provide comprehensive, personal economic casework to 4,000 seniors in the next two years from locations in Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Tucson, and Baltimore.
“With 13 million older adults living near poverty, and unemployment for older workers at an all-time high, people need help getting services and support from a very fragmented system,” said James Firman, President and CEO of the NCOA. “Older adults face a bewildering array of public and private programs and services, most funded independently and siloed. Our Economic Security Service Centers will provide comprehensive, personal support and follow up from one location to ensure that older adults can benefit from income support and employment programs, foreclosure mitigation, debt management, legal aide, reverse mortgages, and the many other services for which they are eligible.”
The centers will provide each low-income client with a comprehensive, personalized financial assessment and economic security plan. Community-based staff will connect seniors with a range of benefits and solutions, and provide personal assistance and follow-up to ensure they actually receive the services and programs.
“This new breed of economic support is ideal for older adults living near poverty who have complex needs,” said Michael Marcus, Program Officer of the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation. “While we have long supported community service organizations that relieve the burden of poverty, we are especially excited about the comprehensive reach and national influence of this program.”
“This program provides services and support right where people need them,” said Jonathan Lavin, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago-based AgeOptions, one of the eight service center locations. “People are often overwhelmed and confused by red tape when seeking services. We can sit right next to them and help them navigate the full range of public and private services that can really improve their quality of life.”
NCOA also announced plans to advocate for public policy changes to improve benefits coordination and stabilize the economic status of low income seniors. The Atlantic Philanthropies has committed $1.8 million to support NCOA’s advocacy efforts to ensure that the goal of economic security and the use of economic casework are infused in legislation, including the Older Americans Act, which will be reauthorized in 2011.
“We see significant opportunities to expand the capacity of the aging services network to serve the needs of economically vulnerable older adults,” said Firman. “With the generous support from the Weinberg Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies, we can bring more attention to these critical issues and hopefully improve the funding stream to address challenges that will increase as our aging population grows.”
Earlier this year, the NCOA started offering free reverse mortgage counseling to seniors.