« PreviousContinue »
I was talking to a new Governor of a State not far from here just the other day who, up to now, has been skeptical, but who now says if it is extended he is going to use a portion, a reasonable portion of it for services for older persons.
Mr. BRADEMAS. Thank you very much.
I have many more questions but there are many colleagues who want to be heard from.
I am very pleased we are joined today by the distinguished chairman of the full Committee on Education and Labor, Mr. Perkins.
Chairman PERKINS. First, let me compliment the distinguished chairman of this subcommittee, Mr. Brademas, for being the first subcommittee chairman to open hearings on a bill which, to my way of thinking, may be the most important piece of legislation to be considered by the Congress this year.
Dr. Flemming, I know that progress has been made in recent years but, to my way of thinking, we have to have a tremendous expansion of the Older Americans Act. There are still many unmet needs particularly in the rural sections of the country.
I think we must have broad authority.
It would be a grave mistake to relax any effort or let any existing provisions expire or has been suggested.
What do you feel are the most urgent need for our senior citizens?
Mr. FLEMMING. Mr. Chairman, this question is one which has been addressed to me a good many times as I move throughout the country.
There is no question in my mind at all but that in order of priority the income area belongs at the top of any list of priorities because as long as we have 18 to 20 percent of persons 65 and over who have incomes below the poverty threshold we have what, in my judgment, is an indefensible situation.
Also, to the extent that the level of income of older persons is raised more and more older persons will have the opportunity of making their own decisions regarding their own lives rather than having other persons make those decisions for them.
Mr. Chairman, I, personally, welcome the decision that the Congress has taken to expand the public service employment program and I can assure you, working with our State agencies and our area agencies, we are going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that older persons get cut in on that, get their fair share.
At that point, as you appreciate, I am sure, just as I do, we have to contend with the belief that has been built into the attitudes of many people that when a person reaches 65 or somewhere along there he or she should go on the shelf.
Chairman PERKINS. We will try to get around that in this legislation.
Mr. FLEMMING. I welcome anything that the Congress can do to help make sure that older persons get their fair share of public employment. Really, in the minds of many older persons the second thing that I would put on the list of priorities is the opportunity for continued involvement in life. Older persons don't want to be put on the shelf.
Chairman PERKINS. There is so much they can do in the way of social service.
Mr. FLEMMING. You are absolutely right.
Chairman PERKINS. I want to read a portion of a letter I received from my home district:
Our allocation of title III money has remained the same for the last 3 years. Three years ago, we were spending all of the money for our programs providing direct services to senior citizens. Since that time without increasing the money available to us, AOA has forced us to increase the number of “high impact" districts from 6 to 8 and effective July 1, 1975, to 10.
This report prompts me to ask to what degree are we underfunding efforts which you feel are necessary for the elderly in these inflationary times?
Mr. FLEMMING. If I might address myself to the question this way.
First of all, I would appreciate it if you would provide us with the opportunity to take a look at that particular area and see just what has been allocated over a period of 3 years.
The person raising the question with you, of course, has raised a fundamental question.
The Older Americans Act, as amended on May 3, 1973, did provide for the putting into effect of this network in the field of aging. A very important part of the network are the area agencies on aging. These area agencies are designed to be focal points for aged within their jurisdictions, designed to be advocates for older persons in connection with all issues confronting the lives of older persons.
The Congress, in my judgment, very wisely said in the law that the States could not allocate more than 15 percent of their total allocation for the administration of area agencies on aging, so the great bulk of the money which has been appropriated under title III has gone to services. In fact, I think the last figures that I have seen show 75 percent.
Now, going to your specific question, there is not a service for older persons in the country financed either by Federal or State or by local or by the private sector that could not utilize additional resources in the interest of meeting the needs of older persons. That is a fact of life.
Mr. Chairman, you recognize and I recognize that now I am in the middle of a discussion between the President of the United States and the Congress that deals with certain basic, fiscal issues. I don't know how the debate is going to be resolved. Whatever way it is resolved, we will take the resources that are made available to us and we will do our very best to see to it that those resources are translated into services for today's older persons.
Chairman PERKINS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. BRADEMAS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to say before recognizing the gentlelady from New York that I share the very deep concern of Chairman Perkins that we move expeditiously on this bill and that we not be overly modest in our hopes for it, particularly in light of the employment aspect of it at a time of serious recession.
Mrs. Chisholm of New York.
One of the reasons, I understand, for creating the Department of Aging is to be able to focus on the problem.
You also indicated that the transportation needs under this act also should be removed and taken over by the Department of Transportation because they have the expertise and know-how.
It would seem to me that we are reverting to originally what the problem is about.
These agencies are so scattered and tangled up that they cannot get any help. Now, what we are doing, we are fragmentizing those particular acts of the program.
Don't you think that it would be better to have, if you will, for want of another term, consultants or technical assistants from the Department of Transportation and/or Department of Housing and Urban Development with respect to these areas to remove these two areas from under your jurisdiction because we are running into the same old problem?
Mr. Thomas. You have asked a very fundamental question. It is one that we in the Administration on Aging and Office of Human Development are most concerned with.
As you know, there are approximately 300 different categorical programs in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare alone. The Social Security Administration, perhaps in terms of services to the elderly, the largest, has an outlay of over $70 billion.
What the Administration on Aging and indeed the whole Office of Human Development are concerned with is recognizing that there are innumerable activities, both within our Department and within other Federal agencies, that have a direct impact on the elderly.
The problem in the past has been that we really have not been able to establish a more coordinated approach to how those departments and agencies met their obligation.
I think the Congress in its interest in the Administration on Aging has clearly articulated to us that, while you recognize that we can't do it all, we have a very important responsibility, a very important management and advocacy responsibility, to insure that all these other programs with resources far in excess of those that will be available to us in the foreseeable future, fulfill their responsibilities. In that regard, for example, Dr. Flemming, chairs the interagency task force and interagency committee which involves all the Federal agencies engaged in these kinds of activities.
While we recognize there are still important needs to be met by the Federal Government and other governmental units in transportation, housing, income, maintenance and others, what we really have to do is to make sure they meet their responsibility. That is the kind of thing we are trying to do.
This is the reason that Dr. Flemming has referred to so many of the agreements that we have been working with. We could not hope in the foreseeable future to be able to have in the entire Federal Government a unit that could do it all. We must make sure that the other agencies meet their responsibilities.
Mrs. CHUSHOLM. I am unduly concerned on the basis of the past practice and behavior of both Republican and Democratic institutions on this question.
Dr. Flemming, I would like to ask you: What is the procedure, if any, that is being used for the monitoring of contracts that will be given by the Administration on Aging to all groups? Are there any particular guidelines that must be followed ?
Mr. FLEMMING. In connection with our regulations which govern the operation of State and area agencies we have specified that minority contractors must be utilized at least to the degree that the minority group or groups are represented in the population of the area.
We required the States in submitting their plans for 1975 to include in their plans action program spelling out how they intended to implement those regulations. This has been done. Now it is our job, through our regional offices, working with the States and the States working with the areas, to make sure that these action programs are implemented.
There has been a fair amount of resistance to this. That we are accustomed to in the civil rights area, I am determined that we demonstrate that it is possible to take a regulation such as the one I have identified and implement it.
Also, we are putting a good deal of emphasis on the State and area agencies developing and implementing affirmative action programs. In my judgment, up to now-after all, this network has been operating only a year--a good job has not been done either in terms of minorities or women. We are insisting on the development of action programs and then, in some instances, we will pool resources with the Civil Service Commission in monitoring some of the affirmative action programs. We recognize it is our responsibility and we intend to do everything we can to implement it.
Mrs. CHISHOLM. Thank you very much,
Title XX of the Social Security Act will consolidate many of our social services, which have had a funding ceiling of $2.5 billion.
I wonder if you would comment on that?
Mr. FLEMMING. Title XX becomes effective on October 1. Between now and October 1, we will still be operating under title VI and some of the other titles providing support for adult services.
We have specified that each State in submitting a plan to us for 1975 must include in their plan an identification of a working arrangement with the welfare department of the State designed to make it possible for better utilization to be made of adult services resources for older persons. We feel that potentially this is a tremendous resource.
In fiscal 1974 at least $200 million of adult services funds were spent for services for older persons I think that sum should be and can be increased.
In my direct testimony I identified as one of our working agreements that is about to go out, a working agreement with the Community Services Administration. This is designed to facilitate cooperative action between the State agencies on aging and the State welfare department.
We are involved, as is the Office of Human Development, right from the beginning in the development of the regulations under title XX I can assure you that we are going to do everything we can to make sure that those regulations are developed in such a way as to accelerate this pooling of resources between title III and what will be the new title XX.
I am not going to wait for the new title XX. There is 9 months between now and October. We are going to do everything we can to cut into some of these resources to a greater extent than we have up to the present time over this 9-month period.
Dr. BRADEMAS. The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Lehman.
Mr. LEHMAN. Having been associated with the civil rights groups of this country, how do you see the implications in the Older Americans Act of depriving them in any way of their civil rights either by the kind of nursing home treatment they get or by the kinds of other situations that they find themselves in.
Mr. FLEMMING. As I indicated on other occasions, I feel, in this country we have to contend with racism, with sexism, and with ageism.
Vr. LEHMAX. Is there a more specific area that we should address ourselves to ?
Mr. FLEMMING. One of the specific areas is the area of opening up either part-time or full-time employment opportunities for older persons, and opening up opportunities for services as volunteers. I have heard of a church-related hospital not far from here where I have been told volunteers are discharged at the age of 65. To me, that is ageism at its worst.
We find ageism running all through our society in the employment area.
In terms of the nursing home situation, I have no doubt at all but that we must do everything possible to implement the Bill of Rights which was incorporated just recently in the regulations issued by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare relative to the operation of skilled nursing homes and intermediate care facilities.
You take an older person who is also a member of a minority group and who is also a woman and that person is in bad shape when it comes to dealing with prejudices of many in our society.
I hope that the day will come when the Civil Rights Act will be amended to include age as well as sex as one of the factors that must be taken into consideration under the Civil Rights Act.
Mr. LEHMAN. That is a very good statement. I will keep it right in front of me.
Mr. FLEMMING. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
Mr. BRADEMAS. We are very pleased also to welcome the new member from Wisconsin, Mr. Cornell, who is next in line.
Mr. CORNELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
One of the things that has bothered me about Mr. Thomas' statement is the fact the Department is willing to let section 309 expire.
I represent a district in which the northern tier of counties has a high number of elderly people who are widely dispersed. I understand the idea, of course, is to have the Department of Transportation and the Office of Education take care of the transportation needs of these people.
I was wondering why you feel confident that the Department of Transportation and the Office of Education will be better qualified to
Mr. Thomas. In terms of their qualifications for doing it obviously their involvement and expertise in the area of transportation is far superior to ours.
I do understand and indeed share your concern that we insure that they meet their obligations with respect to transportation services for the elderly.