Arlington, VA – September 30, 2020 – Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander and National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) Executive Director Bob Blancato released a joint statement in response to the release of the updated Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act:
As representatives of the nationwide network of senior nutrition programs, both congregate and home-delivered, we strongly support the relief aid provided in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act released by House Democrats Monday evening. The $925 million that would be provided to Older Americans Act (OAA) programs through this legislation – including $500 million designated specifically for nutrition services – is desperately needed as local nutrition providers on the front lines of the pandemic continue to face a sustained surge in demand from our nation’s most vulnerable and isolated seniors for life-sustaining meals and other support services.
Since March, we have consistently heard from our senior nutrition providers that above all else, funding is the primary factor impacting their ability to serve those most directly affected by COVID-19, and yet funding is consistently inadequate to meet the dramatically increased need for nutritious meals and social connection. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 9.7 million seniors were threatened by hunger, and we know that an even greater number of older adults are experiencing food insecurity due to the coronavirus. More support is necessary to change this trajectory, and the updated HEROES Act takes significant steps in the right direction.
In addition to appropriating urgently needed funding for the OAA – the primary federal legislation supporting community-based social services for adults age 60 and older, their families and caregivers – this latest proposed legislation contains a number of provisions that recognize the challenges communities nationwide have and will continue to face for months to come. For example, the extension of temporary waivers allowing for transfer authority between congregate and home-delivered meal programs and adjustments to dietary guidelines for meals would make it more feasible for senior nutrition providers to continue making the operational adjustments necessary to serve older adults safely and effectively in this uncharted pandemic landscape.
We greatly appreciate the efforts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) who, along with their staff, have updated the emergency funding proposed in this bill to better reflect the prolonged need our country is facing at this crucial time. We also applaud the emergency relief that would be provided for a number of other programs through this legislation, such as a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, as well as other support for the OAA and Aging Network in general, including supportive, preventative and caregiver services.
Amid this current crisis, it is paramount that our leaders in Washington set aside their differences and work expediently to reach a bipartisan compromise that will alleviate some of the strain millions are facing nationwide. As our nation continues to push forward through uncertain territory, we urge Congress to come together to protect those in greatest need by including the provisions contained within the HEROES Act in the next COVID-19 relief package. Time is of the essence.
ABOUT MEALS ON WHEELS AMERICA
Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America’s seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time. For more information, or to find a Meals on Wheels provider near you, visit www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org.
Founded in 1977, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) is proud to be a leading organization advocating for community-based senior nutrition programs and staff. Our member programs represent a wide range of essential services providers who support the nutrition, health and life quality of seniors. With over 1,100 members from across the United States, we are national advocates for senior health and wellbeing who strengthen the policies and programs that nourish seniors. We accomplish this mission through a collective national voice and through local community action. For more information, go to nanasp.org.
Meals on Wheels America
Jenny Young, 571-339-1603
Meredith Ponder Whitmire, 202-789-0470