Federal Budget Creates Crisis for Older Workers

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The budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives drastically cuts funds for a program vital to the survival of tens of thousands of older, low-income job seekers. The budget reduces funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) from $825 million down to $300 million - a drop of nearly 64 percent.

If these budget cuts become law they will have catastrophic implications for individuals who will be forced to leave the SCSEP program, their lifeline to self-sustainability

The budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives drastically cuts funds for a program vital to the survival of tens of thousands of older, low-income job seekers. The budget reduces funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) from $825 million down to $300 million - a drop of nearly 64 percent.

"If these budget cuts become law they will have catastrophic implications for individuals who will be forced to leave the SCSEP program, their lifeline to self-sustainability," said Billy Wooten, executive director of program operations for Experience Works."The vast majority of those that enter the program face daily struggles - rationing food, choosing whether to pay rent or buy medications, or having to borrow money for gas to drive to job interviews. Many SCSEP participants are 70, 80 and 90 years old and are already on the brink of becoming homeless."

Experience Works, a nonprofit organization that operates the SCSEP in 30 states and Puerto Rico, conducted a survey of SCSEP participants that underscores the forthcoming crisis if they are forced out of the program. According to the survey:

  •     Nearly half (46 percent) of SCSEP participants say they sometimes have to choose between paying rent, purchasing food or purchasing medications.
  •     Half (50 percent) need to keep working so they don’t lose their homes or apartments.
  •     43 percent are looking for work now because they were laid off from their previous positions.
  •     64 percent have been looking for work one year or longer.

"These older Americans want to continue working," said Wooten. "This is a crisis for vulnerable, low-income seniors who face many challenges in becoming reemployed. The alternative is for them to turn to dwindling public assistance for basic needs, without the benefit of advancing their own skills, earning a paycheck and contributing to their communities through work."

Formerly known as Green Thumb, Experience Works is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of low-income older people through employment, community service, and training.

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Joni Williams

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