Now more than ever, older Americans are counting on AARP to fight for their health and economic security. The coronavirus crisis is putting older Americans and their families at risk, straining our health care system, and upending our economy as well as people’s personal finances. At this time of tremendous need, I’m proud to say that AARP is advocating tirelessly on behalf of our members and broader constituency in the halls of Congress, at the White House and federal agencies, and in state capitols across the country.
AARP successfully fought for financial relief and critical support for Americans age 50 and up in the three federal coronavirus spending packages that have passed to date.
- We worked hard to make sure that economic relief comes in the form of direct payments to individuals. Early in the process, AARP made the case to policymakers that direct payments are a better mechanism than a payroll tax cut to get financial support to those in need and stimulate the economy. Under the CARES Act, whether people are working, unable to work, unemployed or retired, low and moderate income Americans – including those who primarily rely on Social Security – will receive as much as $1,200.
- We fought – and will keep fighting – to protect Social Security. Social Security is the critical foundation of retirement security in America. Protecting and strengthening it for current and future beneficiaries are at the core of AARP’s social mission. That’s why we argued for measures that would make the Social Security Trust Fund whole if there was a temporary reduction in the payroll tax that funds Social Security. We were pleased to see that the employer payroll tax holiday included in the CARES Act is a delay, not an elimination, of these payments.
- We urged policymakers to protect people’s retirement savings. The CARES Act allows retirees to delay taking the required minimum distribution from their retirement accounts this year. The steep decline in the stock market over the last few weeks means big losses in people’s 401ks and IRAs. Delaying minimum distributions will give folks the opportunity to see their balances regain some value.
- AARP also advocated for expanded paid sick and family leave as well as unemployment insurance for Americans who cannot work due to the coronavirus. More than 38 million Americans age 50 and up are in the workforce. These protections will help them make ends meet if they get sick, need to care for a sick loved one, or lose their job through no fault of their own.
- And, we are standing up for the most vulnerable seniors. In the first of the three federal relief packages, AARP secured increased funding for Older Americans Act programs, like Meals on Wheels, which provide nutrition assistance for low-income seniors. We also fought for more funding to protect residents of nursing homes, assisted living and other care facilities.
AARP is also working hard to make sure that older Americans have access to the safe, affordable health care they need during this pandemic.
- Consistent with our year-long campaign for lower prescription drug prices, we fought for cost-free testing and will continue to advocate for fair and reasonably priced vaccines and treatments as they are developed.
- We were part of the fight to increase state Medicaid funding to battle the coronavirus, and we are very supportive of Medicare expanding coverage for tele-health services.
In addition to our federal advocacy, AARP is working with governors and other policymakers in every state capitol on issues ranging from virtual visitation in nursing homes and paid leave to preventing evictions, foreclosures, and utility disconnects. AARP representatives are serving on coronavirus task forces in a number of states, making sure that the needs and concerns of older adults are addressed. And, while most state legislatures are not in session, where there is legislative activity, AARP has made a real difference. For example:
- In New Jersey, AARP urged legislators to pass a bill, which has now been signed into law, extending temporary disability and family leave benefits to workers who need to take time off to care for family members with COVID-19.
- In Alaska and Michigan, we helped push telehealth measures over the finish line, so more people can access health care without leaving their homes.
- And in Florida, we fought to pass legislation, which has now been signed into law, that expands the scope of practice for nurse practitioners, allowing these health care professionals to fully utilize their advanced training.
We’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short period of time, but there is more work to be done. For more than sixty years, AARP has led the charge fighting for policies that help Americans choose how they live as they age. Safeguarding the health and financial security of Americans age 50+ is at the core of our social mission. Our efforts will continue as long as there is a need.