THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Aboard Air Force One) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 13, 2000
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 782, the "Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000." The Older Americans Act of 1965, last reauthorized by the Congress in 1992, provides essential home and community-based services, such as congregate and home-delivered meals, transportation, legal assistance, employment and volunteer opportunities, health promotion activities, pension counseling programs, and protection from abuse in institutions and in the community for millions of older persons across the United States.
I am very pleased that this bipartisan legislation includes, for the first time, an important new program designed to assist families. It provides the authorization for the National Family Caregiver Support Program, which I first proposed in 1999 as part of my long-term care initiative. This program will help hundreds of thousands of family members -- spouses, adult children, and others -- who are struggling to care for their frail older loved ones who are ill or disabled. Studies have shown that caregiving can take a huge emotional, physical, and financial toll on families. The support provided through this new program includes critical informa-tion, training, and counseling, as well as much needed quality respite care for those caregivers who are juggling jobs and other family responsibilities while meeting the special needs of loved ones in their care. This legislation also recognizes the challenges that grandparents and other relatives caring for children face, as well as those of older individuals who are caring for children who have disabilities. When funded, this program will provide valuable assistance to the families who need it most.
Beyond providing this important support to families, the bill I am signing today will strengthen and improve the delivery of important daily services to our most vulnerable aging citizens through our national network of State and area agencies on aging, tribal organizations, and other members of our community, including volunteers, many of whom are older persons themselves. The new legislation gives our States, area agencies, and Tribes more flexibility in serving elders in their own communities and regions, and enhances the coordination of Federal, State, and local programs to maximize the effectiveness of program activities.
This legislation does much to position our rapidly growing aging population for the decades ahead when the number of older persons in need of help will be much larger and more diverse. The Act continues to focus attention on the needs of those in greatest social and economic need, with particular attention to low-income minority elders, and it recognizes the needs of those older persons who live in rural areas of our country. It acknowledges the cultural differences among our tribal populations, and provides them with caregiver support and disaster relief assistance as well as promoting better coordination of services between State and tribal grantees. It promotes innovation and the development of best practices for supporting not only older persons, but family caregivers living at home, in the community, or on tribal reservations.
I am also pleased that this legislation incorporates the key features of my Administration's proposal for reauthorizing and enhancing the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). This important program provides part-time community service employment to low-income individuals ages 55 and older, and assists them in obtaining unsubsidized employment. The bill would maintain the unique and complementary structure of SCSEP, under which national nonprofit organizations as well as States receive grants to operate the program. It also strengthens SCSEP by establishing an enhanced performance accountability system, reinforcing connections between SCSEP and the broader workforce investment system established under the Workforce Investment Act, and improving the planning process by providing for broad participation in the development of a plan in each State to ensure an equitable distribution of projects and the coordination of services to seniors.
Finally, the Act calls for the convening of a White House Conference on Aging by the end of 2005 in order to continue to prepare our Nation for its own gift of longevity.
Today's enactment of this legislation extending and improving the Older Americans Act, and establishing the new National Family Caregiver Support Program, reflects our continued commitment to our older population, and represents a victory for Americans of all ages.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, November 13, 2000. # # #