Federations Secure Funding Pledge for Senior Programs

By Matthew E. Berger

Published October 06, 2006, issue of October 06, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Jewish community has scored a legislative victory in its effort to develop programs that allow the elderly to live at home while receiving vital services.

Congress passed legislation last week to create a new federal grant program for development of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, the brainchild of United Jewish Communities that provides an alternative to nursing homes for many elderly Americans who would prefer to live at home.

Under the deal, part of the five-year reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, the Department of Health and Human Services would issue grants for community groups to develop services specifically for seniors who live at home, ranging from transportation to medical treatment. While the funds would not solely go to Jewish organizations, many Jewish federations and community groups have established NORC programs in recent years and are likely to see a large portion of the funds.

Officials at UJC said the measure gives the program permanence, and is a validation of its achievements from both houses of Congress.

“The key here is that this program in the federation system, which has been the vanguard of institutions, now has congressional approval from both houses,” said William Daroff, UJC’s vice president for public policy and Washington office director.

The new legislation comes at a time when many Jewish groups are complaining about cuts to federal social service programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and seeking alternate funding for their own efforts. No NORC programs received federal funds last year.

Today’s seniors are more active. While they require services from the government and community groups, many strongly prefer to live in their homes rather than in a nursing facility. The idea of the NORC initiative is to deliver services — including nurses and social workers, transportation, home repair and community engagement — to apartment complexes and neighborhoods in which the population has aged naturally or has grown more elderly as a result of migration.

The NORC program is expected to play a larger, more important role in the next decade, because the vast number of seniors will be more than the nursing home and assisted living infrastructure can handle.

“Even if we all end up moving into a facility, there’s never going to be enough facilities,” said Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president and director of senior services for B’nai B’rith International. “The concept of bringing services to the community is going to be overwhelming.”

The number of older Americans is projected to double to 77 million people beginning in 2010, when the baby boomer generation retires. At that point, seniors are expected to account for 20% of the population.

Since 2002, UJC and other Jewish groups have been seeking money for NORC programs through legislative earmarks, a term used to describe direct funding to communities inserted by lawmakers into appropriations bills. But with some congressmen seeking to end all earmarks, which can be used by lawmakers to anonymously push money to home-district projects, UJC was seeking a more permanent mechanism for its program.

“This will allow for the NORC program to be sustained through national administration so that we are not constantly at the beck and call of individual members of Congress to help out,” Daroff said.

The language in the OAA does not include a funding amount for the national program. HHS officials would determine the amount distributed under the grant program each year.

The federation system will continue to seek the earmarks, as well, with UJC currently lobbying for $6 million to fund nearly 20 NORC programs for fiscal year 2007. The NORC program has been particularly well received in the Jewish community, which has more seniors than the general population, but it also has been utilized in some non-Jewish circles.

Daroff said he envisioned that more religious and nonreligious groups would be able to replicate the NORC program now that it is federally administered.

“The Jewish community has been at the cutting edge of these programs, and we have shared our knowledge and lessons learned with the aging community generally,” he said. “This allows us to spread the great success stories more broadly.”

The legislation, which President Bush is expected to sign, also reauthorizes the National Family Caregiver Support Program, which provides services and support to people caring for ill or aging family members. Under the deal, the program would receive $187 million over the next five years.

Matthew E. Berger is a correspondent for Congressional Quarterly.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.