Van Hollen, Senators Call on Subcommittee Chairman to Secure Funding for Job Training for Older Americans
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined a group of Senators in calling for $400 million of federal funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the only federal employment program dedicated to helping older Americans return to the workforce. In a letter to Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the Senators emphasized the critical role SCSEP plays in helping seniors update their skills, save for retirement, and contribute to their communities. The senators warned that cuts to the program would be detrimental to older Americans.
In 2018, almost 60,000 older Americans with significant barriers to employment trained at community employers and earned paychecks through SCSEP, including many in Connecticut.
“SCSEP is meeting the goals established by Congress: to promote individual economic self-sufficiency and to increase unsubsidized employment of unemployed Americans age 55 and older,” wrote the Senators. “The need for SCSEP remains critical, as it takes unemployed older adults much longer to return to the workforce as their younger counterparts, and even longer for most-in-need older adults with low employment prospects.”
“Senator Murphy has once again come to the rescue of more than 60,000 older Americans who rely on SCSEP for weekly income while also performing community service,” said Joseph Carbone, president and CEO of The WorkPlace. “He truly understands that a job is also about self-dignity and honor. On behalf of all 18 SCSEP National Operators we thank him for his leadership in the Senate and his compassion for our program participants.”
The following Senators joined Van Hollen in sending the letter: U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calf.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.).
The full text of letter is available here and below:
Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:
Thank you for your commitment to employment opportunities for older Americans by funding the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) at $400,000,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2019. As you prepare your appropriations bill for FY 2020, we ask that you fund SCSEP at the U.S. Department of Labor at least at the FY 2019 level of $400,000,000.
Authorized most recently in 2016 through the bipartisan Older Americans Act, SCSEP is the only federal employment program dedicated to helping older Americans return to the workforce. Through the program, low-income older job seekers from every state learn new work skills and contribute to their communities through paid community training at schools, hospitals, senior centers and other non-profit or public facilities. In 2018, almost 60,000 older Americans with significant barriers to employment trained at community employers and earned paychecks through SCSEP.
SCSEP is meeting the goals established by Congress: to promote individual economic self-sufficiency and to increase unsubsidized employment of unemployed Americans age 55 and older. Every older adult who participates in SCSEP increases their individual economic self-sufficiency through the regular paychecks they earn during their training assignments. In addition, about half of SCSEP participants enter into unsubsidized employment after exiting the program. This high rate of success is despite the fact that SCSEP serves the most-in-need seniors, including those with low employment prospects (92% of all SCSEP participants), many of whom are homeless or at-risk of homelessness (58%), who have disabilities (24%), or who reside in rural areas (26%) or areas of persistent unemployment (19%). Additionally, 12% of SCSEP participants in 2018 were veterans.
SCSEP participants who exit for employment earn more in their first year than the annual SCSEP training costs, resulting in a strong return on the federal investment, according to a 2017 Urban Institute study.
The need for SCSEP remains critical, as it takes unemployed older adults much longer to return to the workforce as their younger counterparts, and even longer for most-in-need older adults with low employment prospects. A recent U.S. Senate Aging Committee report found that age discrimination, inadequate training opportunities, and other factors make it more difficult for older workers to find jobs and thrive in the workplace. Coupled with a looming retirement savings crisis, where a roughly one-third of workers do not have access to a retirement plan at work and the majority of older Americans do not have nearly enough savings, it is crucial that we continue to invest in this vital program.
Please help to ensure job training for older workers continues by robustly funding the Senior Community Service Employment Program in FY 2020.
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