The Honorable Hal Rogers The Honorable Jack Kingston
2406 Rayburn House Office Building
2372 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC, 20515
The Honorable Nita Lowey The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Ranking Member Ranking Member
2365 Rayburn House Office Building 2413 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Rogers and Chairman Kingston and Ranking Member Lowey and Ranking Member DeLauro:
As you review every line of the budget for potential savings, it is more important than ever that we find the most cost-effective way to meet the needs of American communities. Senior Corps is one of those cost-effective solutions. Senior Corps enables senior volunteers to provide nearly 100 million hours of essential services to their neighbors. We ask that you maintain current funding levels for Senior Corps in FY 2015. We also ask that you maintain the current structure of this important program.
By mobilizing seniors to volunteer their skills and experience through Senior Corps, vital community needs are met at a lower cost than other options. Federal efforts to boost volunteerism have consistently attracted bipartisan support and Senior Corps should be no different. Senior Corps currently supports three volunteer programs for older Americans- the Senior Companion Program, the Foster Grandparents Program, and RSVP.
The Senior Companion Program pairs senior volunteers with frail or disabled elderly individuals who are homebound. By taking care of routine chores and providing transportation to medical appointments or the grocery store, Senior Companions are often the only reason that frail or disabled senior citizens are able to remain in their homes and avoid living in a costly long-term care facility. Over 60,000 frail and disabled Americans are able to continue living on their own because of Senior Companion volunteers, saving the federal government millions of dollars.
The Foster Grandparent Program pairs senior volunteers with at-risk and special needs children in schools, youth shelters, and correctional facilities. The presence of a Foster Grandparent has a marked improvement on the reading skills, school attendance, and behavior of the over 230,000 children that they mentor. Without Foster Grandparents, local schools and facilities would not be able to afford to pay for the individual attention that these children need in order to keep up with their peers.
Through RSVP, seniors across the country are connected to volunteer opportunities with over 65,000 local organizations. Not only does RSVP ensure that senior volunteers' skills are best matched to a local organization, it also guarantees that volunteers' time is put to use satisfying whatever unique needs their community may have. Additionally, senior volunteers reap the mental and physical benefits of remaining active. Each year RSVP volunteers mentor over 80,000 children including 16,000 children of prisoners and provided independent living services for 696,000 frail elderly and people with disabilities.
The President's FY 2015 budget proposal unwisely calls for discontinuing Senior Corps. Instead, the President's budget would move Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent into AmeriCorps. RSVP would face a 70% cut as part of the Volunteer Generation Fund. We take seriously the unsustainable federal deficit; however all three Senior Corps ensure that American volunteers meet local needs at less cost to the taxpayer. We think it makes fiscal sense to support the current structure of Senior Corps and the current funding level of $202 million in the fiscal year 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill.
Member of Congress
RESPONSES TO THE 2015 ADMINISTRATION'S BUDGET FROM
The National Association of Foster Grandparent Program Directors (NAFGPD)
The National Association of RSVP Directors
The National Senior Corps Association
Specific concerns about the FY 2015 Proposal
NARSVPD, NAFGPD and NSCA strongly oppose the move of RSVP funds to the Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) and elimination of 66% of RSVP funding.
JUSTIFICATION: 2014 RSVP funding was $48,900,000 and the VGF funding ($15,000,000 to be designated for RSVP) represents a 66% reduction meaning at least 2/3 of RSVP programs would be eliminated in 2015.
Millions of Americans and thousands of local non-profit organizations will lose services and non-profits will be left without a viable resource to maintain the critical services they provide. Communities are already inundated with increased needs, the shift and loss of the RSVP funding and volunteers will have a massive negative impact on local organization's ability to sustain services to the neediest populations. .
In 2012 there were 296,000 RSVP volunteers, a decrease of over 100,000 volunteers from the 2010 level of engagement when RSVP received 20% cuts to budgets. By cutting another 66% RSVP will lose another 195,000 volunteers currently serving. Our communities will lose 40,920,000 hours of service to struggling non-profits reducing the level of service value by $905,968,000. This change would be devastating to the 65,000 community organizations that collaborate with RSVP.
FOSTER GRANDPARENTS AND SENIOR COMPANIONS
1. NARSVPD, NAFGPD and NSCA strongly oppose the transfer of FGP and SCP to the AmeriCorps management and funding system. In addition to the transfer to Americorps the 2015 budget is a reduction of $14,900,000 (14%) for the Foster Grandparent Program and a reduction of $8,707,000 (16%) to the Senior Companion Program.
JUSTIFICATION: A 14% cut for FGP means a loss of 3,360,000 hours (valued at $74,390,000 according to Independent Sector's 2014 data) in service to children struggling with language, literacy and other academic skills. A 16% cut to SCP means a loss of 1,952,000 hours (valued at $43,217,000) of service to disabled individuals and seniors.
2. NARSVPD, NAFGPD and NSCA strongly opposes the elimination of the hourly stipend for FGP/SCP as proposed to be replaced with an annual living allowance (quarter time valued at $2,771 annually).
a. JUSTIFICATION: This proposal calls for an annual living allowance ($2,771) that would require a Foster Grandparent or Senior Companion to serve a minimum of 8.5 hours per week. Currently, many volunteers serve 20, 30 or more hours per week and have increased financial benefit since the current stipend is hourly. The change will diminish the incentive to provide more than 8.5 hours per week and will result in a massive loss of service hours to children in need of assistance to meet academic grade level performance at thousands of schools and Head Starts across the Nation, and to thousands of frail older adults and caregivers trying to maintain independent living. The loss of service by Senior Companions would likely result in an increase in long-term care costs to states and federal financial resources and to individual families.
b. The current requirement of a minimum of 16 hours per week throughout the year builds consistency for the schools and helps promote a strong relationship with the children. Under the new proposal a volunteer could fulfill the 450 hour annual requirement in 10 weeks and diminish the tutoring/mentoring benefit for thousands of children. Add something about SCP
c. Some people might say that Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion supporters are reluctant to change. But some things do not change with time, and should not. The bond between grandparents and children is one of them. The bond between frail isolated senior and caregivers and the volunteer companion is another one. FGP and SCP have been creating meaningful, life-changing bonds between volunteers and children and the most need older adults for almost fifty years. This has been incredibly effective for these children, frail elderly and caregivers and will continue to be - if it is allowed to continue as is.
3. NARSVPD, NAFGPD and NSCA oppose the level of funding to seniors for the Segal Education Award.
JUSTIFICATION: Education awards wouldn't be an effective motivator for limited-income seniors who are focused on pressing current needs such as rent, food, and medicine. A tax-free stipend works much better.
Why would a Foster Grandparent's award ($250) be so much less than that of a regular AmeriCorps member ($1,530)? This certainly isn't equitable, and sounds suspiciously like ageism. It isn't helped by the stipulation that Foster Grandparents can receive the full award once their program has been successful in the broader AmeriCorps competition. Why would only older people need to prove themselves in order to receive equal treatment?
General concerns about the FY 2015 Proposal
1. There is no evidence that Senior Corps would work better under the AmeriCorps model.
CNCS claims to make decisions based on evidence and evaluation. "CNCS's emphasis on evaluation is aligned with the Administration's commitment to using evidence and rigorous evaluation in budget, management, and policy decisions." There is no evidence that Senior Corps programs would work better under the AmeriCorps model? What rigorous evaluation has been done to justify this policy decision? "Transitioning the program to the competitive framework of AmeriCorps will encourage grantees to enhance their impact." How has it been demonstrated that the impact will improve?
2. A re-organization of this scope should be proposed under authorization, not appropriations.
Putting all the Senior Corps programs under the AmeriCorps model would , reduce the number of Senior Corps volunteers, change the benefits given to volunteers, and drastically reduce the hours of service provided to communities - these are significant changes to the Serve America Act. What would become of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act, which currently governs the activities of Senior Corps volunteers? Changes of this magnitude should be proposed during a re-authorization so there is an opportunity for discussion and modification, not brought in incidentally through the process of appropriations.
3. Re-competition is already possible under Senior Corps supervision, as with RSVP.
The "opportunity to compete for funding under the broader AmeriCorps program" is presented as an advantage of folding Senior Corps into AmeriCorps. But Senior Corps has already begun the transition to re-competition with RSVP. FGP and SCP can follow that model which has already been designed and tested; a disruptive transition to AmeriCorps is not necessary to be able to re-compete FGP and SCP, however, the authority should be granted through re-authorization.
4. Putting Foster Grandparent Programs into the general AmeriCorps competition would put local communities, especially rural areas, at risk of losing a valuable service.
Having a combined competition of Senior Corps and AmeriCorps programs would mean that current commitments to geographic areas would no longer hold. In fact, Foster Grandparent Programs from different areas would be competing against each other. And large urban areas might be more likely to win awards than the many rural areas currently served by Foster Grandparent Programs.
5. Folding Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions into AmeriCorps model does not fulfill the Serve America Act's language reserving 10% of AmeriCorps funding for people 55 and over.
The Serve America Act set a goal of reserving at least 10% of AmeriCorps funding and AmeriCorps member positions for people age 55+. Re-classifying Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions as AmeriCorps members should not count toward achieving this goal, which was intended to ensure age diversity in the AmeriCorps stream of funding.
Additional Concerns: In this proposal, the Administration ignores a distinguished history of senior service stretching back more than 40 years. These programs have enjoyed bi-partisan support since their inception. The Administration did not present this proposal for public discussion. It did not reach out to The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP), and The Senior Companion Program (SCP) to work collaboratively to address its concerns. It did not seek input from stakeholders who work with, and rely on, senior volunteers. It did not ask Congress to consider these proposals in the context of a reauthorization; a deliberative process. We ask that this process be considered to give a better outcome for all these programs.
The guiding principles of National Service are to create opportunities for all Americans to serve and to do as much as possible to recognize where people are in the life cycle. The 2015 budget proposal does neither. It cuts the number of seniors serving and forces others into a model that hasn't been proven to work.
A more thoughtful approach would have been to ask how we could expand senior volunteer service to take advantage of the talents and experiences of the 10,000 Baby Boomers who are retiring today and will do so every day for the next 20 years.