Goodwill® Calls on Congress to Support Senior Employment

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Growing coalition urges lawmakers to protect workers by reauthorizing the Older Americans Act

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“Goodwill believes that everyone who wants to work should have the opportunity to do so.”

As a co-sponsor of the One Away Campaign for elder economic security, Goodwill Industries International is calling on Congress to protect and strengthen the Older Americans Act (OAA). Goodwill and the co-sponsors of the One Away Campaign recognize that today’s older workers have a great need for programs funded by the OAA, as the unemployment rate for seniors has reached record high levels, with one in three older Americans currently economically insecure.

Passed in 1965, OAA is the major national vehicle for the organization and delivery of social services to seniors, including authorization of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) — the only federal program designed to prepare older workers for the modern labor market. Through SCSEP, Goodwill matches older workers with nonprofits or public agencies that can provide on-the-job training opportunities, then assists them with transitioning into regular employment. Since 2006, Goodwill has served more than 6,000 seniors through SCSEP, helping more than 1,600 find unsubsidized employment.

These include individuals like 64-year-old Gretchen “Wendy” Harris of Tacoma, WA. After a 30-year career in the accounting, banking and defense contracting fields, Harris had to stop working due to progressive sight loss from macular degeneration. Through SCSEP at the Tacoma Goodwill, she received job training, learned about accommodations that could help her perform a variety of duties, and found a position as a receptionist trainee at the Vision Loss Center in the state of Washington. Within a year, she received a promotion.

“Before entering the program, I thought my life was over,” said Harris. “The Senior Community Service Employment Program interrupted that. It’s a window into a life I didn’t know I’d ever have again.”

“Goodwill believes that everyone who wants to work should have the opportunity to do so,” said Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. “With so many seniors like Wendy struggling to stay afloat these days, the Older Americans Act is vital to helping them find employment and live self-sufficiently— which ultimately will save taxpayers millions of dollars each year.”

The OAA is currently due for reauthorization and will be debated in Congress over the coming months, presenting an opportunity to renew and expand this vital initiative. Goodwill encourages Congress to: expand the scope of SCSEP to include additional older adults with low incomes, allow for pilot programs to create jobs for seniors in specific growth sectors, maintain the current time limits to ensure the program assists as many eligible individuals as possible, and increase collaboration with other agencies and programs.

“The time to stand up for older Americans is now,” said James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging. “As a national provider of job training and human services programs, we are grateful to Goodwill for their leadership and participation of the One Away campaign and their social services for seniors who need support making ends meet or finding employment.”

To learn more, visit the One Away campaign at http://www.oneaway.org.

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Charlene Sarmiento
Goodwill Industries International
240-333-5590
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