Title III, Older Americans Act:

Carryover Funds Are Not Creating a Serious Meal Service Problem Nationwide

GAO-01-211: Published: Jan 9, 2001. Publicly Released: Jan 19, 2001.

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Marlene S. Shaul
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Under Title III of the Older Americans Act, the Administration on Aging (AoA) distributes grants to states on the basis of their proportional share of the total elderly population in the United States. These grants are then disbursed to more than 600 area agencies nationwide, and are used to fund group and in-home meals, as well as support services, including transportation and housekeeping. The grants are further subdivided by these agencies to more than 4,000 local service providers. AoA requires that states obligate these funds by September 30 of the fiscal year in which they are awarded. Also, states must spend this money within two years after the fiscal year in which it is awarded. During this time AoA does not limit or monitor the amount of unspent funds that states may carry over to the succeeding fiscal year. GAO examined whether states were using Title III carryover funds to expand their meal service programs for the elderly beyond a level sustainable by their annual allotments alone. GAO found that the buildup and use of Title III carryover funds to support elderly nutrition services does not appear to be a widespread problem. However, AoA does not monitor the states' buildup of carryover funds. As a result, the agency has little assurance that it could identify meal service problems that could emerge in the future.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to its recommendation, the Administration on Aging (AoA) has offered technical assistance to help states work through the issues of excessive carryover funds identified in GAO's report. As a result of these efforts, improvements have been made in how states manage carryover funds. For instance, Arizona has implemented a new state policy that limits the amount of funds which can be carriedover. In South Dakota, the time frame for keeping carryover funds has been restricted to the first quarter of the federal fiscal year. Other states are taking steps to make improvements as well, according to the AoA. AoA has also conducted listening sessions in several locations around the country to gain state and local input about the content to be included in Older Americans Act regulations. The information from GAO's report will be added to this input for consideration for inclusion in new regulations.

    Recommendation: Although the use of carryover funds to support nutrition services for the elderly does not currently appear to be creating a serious meal service problem nationwide, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Assistant Secretary for Aging, Administration on Aging, to monitor the levels of unspent Title III-C funds that states carry over to the succeeding fiscal year and work with the states that build up substantial amounts of carryover funds to develop a strategy to spend down such funds in a manner that minimizes the potential disruption of meal services for the elderly. Such monitoring could be performed with available resources if it is done as a part of the administration's routine program-monitoring activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services


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