By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
As coronavirus cases and deaths continue rising, including nearly 100,000 resident and staff deaths in U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, AARP Massachusetts participated in a nationwide Virtual Lobby Week for the second time in 2020 to fight for older Americans amid the crisis. AARP leaders and volunteers met virtually with federal lawmakers during the first week in December to urge more help for those age 50-plus and their families as they continue facing growing health and economic challenges due to the pandemic.
On behalf of our 760,000 members in the commonwealth, AARP Massachusetts is committed to fighting for bipartisan policies that will protect older Americans and their families as the COVID-19 pandemic continues its march across the country. It is crucial that Congress continues to help older adults confront their health and financial needs that remain in dire jeopardy nine months into the pandemic. Residents in nursing homes, those who are food-insecure, and soon-to-be Social Security beneficiaries are in particular need.
AARP Massachusetts staff and volunteers met with Massachusetts members of Congress to discuss and urge action on the following federal legislation to:
Protect residents in nursing homes and other care facilities
The continued rapid rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country presents a considerable risk to residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, where more than 94,000 have died from the virus, representing 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths nationwide. AARP is urging Congress to take critical steps to help save lives in these facilities by ensuring that facilities are testing staff and residents, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), and have adequate staffing levels. In a recent analysis by AARP, more than 1 in 5 nursing homes still report PPE shortages. Congress should also require facilities to make available and facilitate virtual visitation for their residents and families, and report publicly on a daily basis whether they have confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, including demographic data. Lastly, legislation should ensure that taxpayer dollars provided to long-term care facilities are used towards items and services that directly relate to the health and safety of residents and staff.
Defend Social Security benefits
Over four million workers are likely to face a big drop in Social Security benefits if Congress does not fix the pandemic’s impact on how benefits are calculated. Because Social Security adjusts earnings for historical changes in wages, it is estimated that this “COVID cut” will result in a $45,000 reduction in benefits over 20 years for workers who turned 60 in 2020. AARP urges Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to address this “COVID cut” and hold Social Security beneficiaries harmless from the drop in wages in 2020.
Invest more in federal nutrition programs
As people struggle to make ends meet during this incredibly challenging time, it’s getting even harder for millions of Americans 50+ to put food on the table. To address this growing and urgent need, AARP urges Congress to temporarily increase the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum benefit and the minimum monthly benefit to help ensure vulnerable Americans can afford to eat and stay healthy.
To learn more about AARP’s efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic, visit www.aarp.org/coronavirus.
Mike Festa is the State Director for AARP Massachusetts.