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HHS updates federal policies to support aging in place | Black Kite Express

He Administration for community life (ACL), a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced this week the publication of a final rule that will update regulations for implementing programs under the Older Americans Act (OAA). One of the intentions of the rule is to better support older Americans’ desires to age in their own homes, ACL said.

Passed by Congress in 1965, the OAA established comprehensive services for older Americans by creating a national network for older adults at the state and federal levels. First signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the OAA was reauthorized by Congress in 2016 and 2020, and is currently in effect until the end of 2024.

“The first substantial update to most OAA program regulations since 1988, the rule aligns the regulations with current statute, addresses issues that have arisen since the last update, and clarifies a number of requirements,” ACL said in an announcement from the rule.

ACL oversees a legacy national network designed to provide OAA services, and this new rule is intended to better support the network by improving program implementation.

“(ACL has) the ultimate goal of ensuring that the nation’s growing population of older adults can continue to receive the services and supports they need to live – and thrive – in their own homes and communities,” the announcement said.

The announcement outlined 11 key provisions in the update, including clarification of requirements for state and regional plans on aging, as well as details on requirements for coordination among state, local, and tribal programs. Consistency of definitions across these programs has been improved, HHS said, and “provisions to meet OAA requirements to prioritize people with the greatest social and economic needs” have also been “strengthened.”

The new final rule also specifies “the broad range of individuals who may receive services, how funds may be used, tax requirements, and other requirements that apply to all programs.” It also “clarifies required policies and procedures of state and local agencies,” including establishing “expectations regarding conflicts of interest.”

The final rule added guidance for state agencies as well as the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Native American Caregiver Support Program, both established since the last update.

ACL updated provisions for emergency preparedness and response, taking lessons from issues discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Older Americans should be able to live independently and age with dignity,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the announcement. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to expanding access to health care, nutrition services, caregiving, and aging opportunities for all older Americans. “This update to the Older Americans Act regulations strengthens the support system that helps seniors live independently and age with dignity.”

Alison Barkoff, director of ACL, said the new rule stems from data indicating an overwhelming desire among older Americans to age in place.

“For many, (aging in place) is made possible by programs and services provided through the Older Americans Act, such as transportation to medical appointments, nutritious meals, in-home services and support for family caregivers,” Barkoff said. “The updated regulations strengthen the stability and sustainability of these programs, and we look forward to working with our partners in the seniors network to implement them.”

At the end of last year, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced its own $40 million investment to support aging local services. The investment is designed to “expand the supply of service coordinators who support seniors and people with disabilities” living in affordable multifamily housing, HUD said.

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