Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Thirty-seven percent of the nation’s fatalities from Covid-19 occurred among residents and staff in long-term care facilities.  In 15 states, long-term care accounted for more than half of all Covid-19 deaths.  This has become a terrifying time for the 1.3 million Americans living in these facilities and their families.  Congress and the Administration must take urgent action to protect the health and safety of residents, staff and the surrounding community.  This is a matter of life and death.

This is why we need to contact our Federal Representatives:  Senators Feinstein and Harris, as well as Representatives Rho Khanna, Anna Eshoo, and Zoe Lofgren, to ask them support and vote in favor of the ACCESS ACT (HR 6487/S 3517).  This bill will allow the staff of nursing homes to have access to telehealth services and obtain technologies to allow virtual visits during the public health emergency relating to an outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), and for other purposes.

Also, the Nursing Home Covid-19 Protection & Prevention Act (HR 6972/S 3768), by our CA Representative Anna Eshoo, is important in that it provides better access for families and ensures better care for patients in nursing homes.  Please thank Rep. Eshoo for her leadership and offer your support.  Please also call your Member of Congress (if it is not Rep. Eshoo) to urge their support, along with Senators Feinstein and Harris.

There are now 12 Covid-19 symptoms to watch out for (the list grows):  fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, (new) loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

President Trump will continue to support Covid-19 testing sites.  Many states have decided to “pause” their reopening plans in light of the spikes in coronavirus cases.  And Texas has become the new epicenter for Covid-19.  So, stay healthy; wear your mask!

Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Nursing homes continue to be a hotbed for the COVID-19 infection.  AARP members are being asked to contact their Federal Representatives, State Senators, & State Assembly Members to Implement a 3-point plan to improve conditions in America’s Long-Term Care Facilities, which must

(1)  Have the personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing they need to identify cases and prevent the spread of the virus, as well as adequate staffing to provide care.

(2)  Be transparent by reporting publicly on a daily basis whether they have confirmed COVID-19 cases; and provide residents and families information when loved ones are discharged or transferred out of their room or facility.

(3)  Make available and facilitate virtual visitation as a safety measure between residents and their families.

We also need to urge our State Representatives to support the Governor’s Paid Family Leave Budget Trailer bill language:  AARP is fighting to improve paid leave policies for California workers who must care for adult loved ones, some of whom have been impacted by COVID-19.

  • Paid family leave with job protections must be available to all California workers.
  • Family caregivers are on the front lines battling to keep their loved ones out of hospitals or nursing homes.
  • Family caregivers help older loved ones with medications and medical care, bathing and dressing, meals, chores and much more.
  • Across California, more than 4.7 million family caregivers provide critical assistance to help their older parents, spouses, and other loved ones remain living in their homes — most while also working full- or part-time.  They contribute more than 4 billion hours of unpaid care each year, valued at approximately $63 billion.

And last, but not least, we need to tell our State Assembly Members and State Senators to OPPOSE the harmful cuts to programs serving older Californians in the state budget. This is the wrong approach to take at a time when older Californians are contracting and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than the rest of the population.

Meanwhile, we are getting closer every day to a vaccine for COVID-19.  Please, please, DO NOT use hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus – studies have shown it to cause serious side effects, including death.

Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

While Congress has been working, the state legislature went into recess about a month ago.  They are supposed to come back in early May.  There will be a big shortfall in revenues here in California, meaning that we may have a budget deficit.  Because of the COVID pandemic, the focus for the legislature will be on COVID response, retaining current funding in the state budget (not increases) and preparation for wildfire season.

President Trump signed a reauthorization of The Older Americans Act on Wednesday, April 22nd.  This law provides much needed money for programs like meals on wheels and family caregiver support.

With all that said, advocacy is continuing in a virtual manner.  If you are so inclined, you can take the following actions:

Federal Representative:

  • Thank your member of Congress and Senators (Harris and Feinstein) for passing the Older Americans Act & CARES Act (The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).  You can do this by calling their local offices.

State Senator & Assembly Member:

  • Ask your local Senator and Assembly Member to support our Paid Leave Act.  We are requesting broader terms than what we shared in February because it includes both Paid Sick Leave AND Paid Family Leave.  The Families-First Coronavirus Response Act, that President Trump signed back in March, has gaps that need to be filled; and this ask to Governor Newsom, would take care of that, ensuring that all workers are entitled to job-protected leave and wage-replacement benefits to weather this unprecedented crisis.

With 1,156,278 confirmed COVID-19 cases, nearly 170,201 people in America have reported full recoveries from COVID-19.  Even so, the US hits a grim milestone:  Almost 70,000 people have died of COVID-19, and the global pandemic shows few signs of slowing as pressure mounts to reopen parts of our economy.

Support is building among Republicans for reopening the economy sooner rather than later, but not all GOP lawmakers are on the same page.  Many believe we may be better off waiting another month, giving the scientists enough time to come up with vaccines and antivirals.  And while some governors are already chomping at the bit to open up early, others, like the governor from New Mexico, are looking at May 15th or later, before lifting the lockdown.

Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Congress passed an $8.3 billion spending bill that prioritizes delivering care for patients, and developing treatments and vaccines to combat the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, COVID-19. The coronavirus funding bill signed into law by the President on March 6th, puts much more money toward treating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 than his administration requested from Congress the week before.

As we learn more about COVID-19, data shows that it hits older adults particularly hard.  Coronaviruses are not something new. They have been around a long time, usually feeling like a common cold. This version is what’s new.  Discovered in 2019, Covid-19 causes upper-respiratory tract infections and can be deadly to people with compromised immune systems and older people.

So, what do taxpayers get for that $8.3B?  Here are some highlights:

  • $3.1B for the Health and Human Services, with monies to be put toward therapeutic development, vaccine development, and to purchase additional supplies like masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • $300M to buy vaccines and treatments.
  • $1.25B for international activities, responding to the spread of coronavirus worldwide.

On March 27, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package was signed into law.  The legislation will put money in the pockets of many Americans during the pandemic.  Here are some situational highlights:

  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S has surpassed all other countries.
  • AARP advocated to Congress to support policies that benefit the health and financial well-being of older Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • A bipartisan reauthorization of the Older Americans Act provides more money for programs helping older Americans age in their homes and communities through services, including Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support and transportation.

In California, AARP provided some specific recommendations to the Governor’s Office and his outreach strategy team, which included creating a mailer with resources and phone numbers important for older adults and their caregivers.  Governor Gavin Newsom subsequently announced the launch of a new initiative to help the 3.5 million Californians over the age of 65 stay connected while they stay at home during the novel coronavirus outbreak.  He said the statewide initiative will help seniors through various nonprofits, local governments, and CERT teams.

  • California has launched a hotline to deliver services and help for older Californians. The phone number for the hotline is 1-833-544-2374.
  • In addition, to help people deal with loneliness and isolation, he’s asking people to make five phone calls to reach their neighbors, not just family members.

Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

On the Federal level, HR 1230 POWADA (Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act) – passed the House. We need to thank our Federal Representatives for voting in favor of it.  Our Representatives, Khanna and Lofgren, should be thanked for their leadership by co-sponsoring HR 1230 along with 90 other Representatives.  We appreciate their support for all of our older workers.  Now onto the Senate.  The bill has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. We need to let our Senators know how we feel as soon as it comes out of the committee!  Keep an eye on it.  The committee has some good Senators on it, including Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT).

Our State Senators have also been busy, HOWEVER, SB 50 – Planning & Zoning – Housing Development (addressing affordable housing concerns, especially for older adults) failed on the Senate floor.  We still need to thank our Senators, Beall & Monning, for their Aye vote and hard work in trying to get it passed and let them know we hope we can count on their continued support on this issue in the future.

With the latest criticism of President Trump’s policy on the coronavirus, all I can say is, stay healthy out there!  (And Happy St Patrick’s Day!)  We will have more news in April, now that the sessions are all under way and getting some steam up!

Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

We have been doing great using our voices and sharing our personal stories with elected officials to help AARP continue our important work serving older adults.  There are two calls to action at the Federal level awaiting our help:

HR 1230 POWADA (Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act) — Please call our Senators to ask them to vote “aye” on this bill.  This one passed the House and went to the senate on the 16th of January and is now in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Don’t forget to urge Senators Feinstein and Harris to vote on HR 3 and encourage their Senate colleagues to also support HR 3 with an “aye” vote.  The Lower Drug Costs Now Act passed the House in December and now rests in the Senate’s hands.  Help make sure this passes!

On the State level, advocacy focus right now remains on the Master Plan for Aging.  If you haven’t done this so far, please access the MPS site and submit your ideas and feedback.  There is an upgraded website for the MPS:  engageCA.org.

Now that both Congress and the State Legislature are back from their recesses, we shall have lots more to talk about in the coming months.  That’s all for now.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Our action this month is to THANK our members of Congress for having voted in favor of HR 3, The Lower Drug Costs Now Act.  All of our local members of Congress (Representatives Anna Eshoo 408-245-2339, Ro Khanna 408-436-2720, Zoe Lofgren 408-271-8700) voted in favor of this bill.  We need to make sure that they know we are happy they voted in favor of it.

Since Congress is still on winter break until sometime in January, there is no new news, except the impeachment of the President by the House of Representatives on the 18th of December.  Now it goes to the Senate for the trial.

Speaking of which, the schedule for days in session for January and early February is predictably in flux because, absent an agreement, the Senate could convene six days a week for the duration of an impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.  The President has asked for an immediate trial.  The accusations of abuse of power and obstruction will be heard at that time.  Even though the House is Democrat led, the Senate is controlled by Republicans.

On that note, keep an eye on the trial; it should be very interesting.  Have a great new year!

Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

This month, we are asked to place comments on the weengAGE portal for the Master Plan for Aging.  We can insert comments and receive updates through the link below.  We can also share the link with our networks.  Please, if you have time, complete and share the Master Plan on Aging Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MPAPledge

Congress is at recess, as is the State Legislature and we won’t hear from either until after the new year.  In the meantime here are just a few tidbits:  The following bills were introduced just after Congress returned from their previous break and were written to enhance the Older Americans Act of 1965.  Although AARP has not had a chance to weigh in on these, they would be interesting to follow.

Representative David Trone (D-MD) introduced H.R. 4859, Protecting Older Americans From Social Isolation Act of 2019 on 10/24/2019, which, when passed, will set up an advisory committee to determine and develop objectives, priorities, and a long-term plan for supporting State and local efforts involving education about, prevention of, detection of, and response to negative health effects associated with social isolation among older individuals.

Representative Charlie Crist (D-FL) introduced H.R. 4827, the Building Age-Friendly Communities Act on 10/23/2019. This would support the ability of older individuals to age in place, including through the provision of homelessness prevention services, support the ability of older individuals to access preventive health care, promote age-friendly communities, and address the ability of older individuals to access long-term care support, including access to caregivers and home- and community-based services.

Back in September Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) introduced H.R. 4334, the Dignity in Aging Act of 2019, a very lengthy and thorough bill, that establishes, reauthorizes, and revises several programs administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor relating to care for the elderly.

Among other things, the bill reauthorizes through FY2024, and revises, programs that support:

  • caregivers of the elderly; community and workforce training regarding elder care;
  • informational services, such as pension counseling;
  • nutritional services, such as meal delivery;
  • disease prevention and health promotion services; and abuse and neglect prevention services.

The bill also establishes several entities and programs to further support elder care, including initiatives that aim to promote independent living and reduce social isolation for the elderly.  This bill passed the House on October 30. Now it’s in the Senate…..after the winter break! 

                                                                           Happy Holidays, everyone!

Legislative News…Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

The CA Legislature is adjourned until January 6, 2020.  We are happy to let you know that AB 824 and AB 1118 were both signed by the Governor!  California drug manufacturers will no longer be able to pay for the delay of the development and/or research for generic prescription drugs, and California becomes the first state to have enacted a statewide law that enrolls California in the Age-Friendly Network.  Your hard work led to our success, and we appreciate your constant visits to your district offices to make this happen!

Urge your Member of Congress to support measures in Congress designed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, including HR 3.  AARP has endorsed H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act when it was introduced in the House last month.  The bill’s key provisions would allow Medicare to negotiate on behalf of the more than 40 million beneficiaries in Part D.  The federal government should be leveraging that bargaining power to lower prices.  The bill also includes an out-of-pocket cap for costs in Medicare Part D. In 2015 alone, Medicare beneficiaries spent $27 billion in out-of-pocket drug costs. 

Older American’s Act ReauthorizationHR 4334:  Older Americans Act (OAA) programs provide home-delivered meals, help at home, family caregiver support, transportation services, training and employment programs to help keep older adults in their homes and communities, where they want to be, and out of generally more costly care.

*    AARP is calling for funding at levels that will meet the needs of the growing older population.  Over the years, funding has not kept pace with the growth in the older population.

*    Urge your Member of Congress to support HR 4334.

Legislative News … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

This is the month for email writing! We have the following three email campaigns that AARP would like us to take part in:

1.  AB 824, “to stop pay-to-delay practices” on drug prices, was amended again on the 13th of September, and AARP still supports the bill.  To learn more, visit states.aarp.org/California/AB824.  Please consider sending an email or letter to the Governor’s office.

2.  AB 1366, preventing the CPUC from performing its oversight role for VOIP and IP-enabled phone services, has been shelved, but only for this year. We will continue to work on OPPOSING this bill into 2020. This is a good time to send an email to our senators to let them know, we don’t want this one to pass!  We want the CPUC to perform oversight!

3.  AB 1118, which would establish California as an Age-Friendly State and requires the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to include the 8 domains of livability developed by the World Health Organization to be included as recommendations in the next update of the State General Planning Guidelines.  This bill has been sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  Please consider sending him an email or letter as soon as possible urging him to sign AB 1118 into law.

Master Plan on Aging

Finally, the Governor’s Master Plan on Aging process kicked off on September 17.  Nina Weiler-Harwell, Ph.D. | AARP California Associate State Director – Community, is on the Stakeholder Advisory Commission.  We hope that she can enlighten us as to what has been decided as they “Pledge for Action allow[ing] all Californians the opportunity to share their ideas and suggestions for how we collectively build an age-friendly California.”

Recognizing that California’s over-65 population is projected to grow to 8.6 million by 2030, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order calling for the creation of Master Plan for Aging to be developed by October 1, 2020. The Master Plan will serve as a blueprint that can be used by state government, local communities, private organizations and philanthropy to build environments that promote an age-friendly California.  Want to read more?  https://www.chhs.ca.gov/home/master-plan-for-aging/