Senior Community Service Employment:

Program Reauthorization Issues That Affect Serving Disadvantaged Seniors

T-HEHS-99-126: Published: May 19, 1999. Publicly Released: May 19, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the reauthorization of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), focusing on the: (1) effect of the hold harmless provision on allocating funds to where needy elderly live; and (2) impact of the annual appropriations statutes on the distribution of SCSEP positions within states.

GAO noted that: (1) existing legislative requirements governing the allocations of SCSEP funds result in distributions of funds among and within states that do not match the distribution of the needy population; (2) the hold harmless provision, as interpreted by the Department of Labor, limits Labor's ability to allocate funds among states in a way that ensures that funds are provided to the states where the most needy elderly reside; (3) a majority of SCSEP funds are not responsive to population changes that have occurred since 1978 when the hold harmless provision was put in place because national sponsors are guaranteed the same level of activity in each state that they had in 1978; (4) in program year 1998, 63 percent of the total appropriation of $440 million was subject to the hold harmless provision; (5) in addition, because 78 percent of total appropriations go to national sponsors, some areas within states can be over- or underserved; (6) this annual appropriation provision has afforded the states a more limited role in ensuring a more equitable distribution of funds than was envisioned in the 1978 amendments, whereby states were to receive 55 percent of funds above the 1978 appropriation; (7) in GAO's 1995 SCSEP report, GAO presented matters for consideration by Congress that would: (a) amend or eliminate the hold harmless provision; and (b) increase the amount of funds allocated to the states; and (8) GAO believes that these options remain valid today.

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