LeadingAge helped develop the newly-introduced bill, which would make new funding and other reforms for Service Coordination in affordable housing.
Lawmakers introduced the Expanding Service Coordinators Act to grow and improve Service Coordination programs in affordable housing on August 9. The legislation would increase funding for federal service coordinator grant programs and make improvements to training and retention opportunities.
Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) introduced the legislation for the second time, calling it a critical workforce initiative. “Service coordinators are a critical and underfunded resource in federally-assisted housing,” said Smith’s press release. Service Coordinators help older adults age in independent living by connecting households with a wide range of social services.
LeadingAge helped craft the bill before it was reintroduced, including advocacy with the congressional offices to create new service coordination grants for affordable senior housing developed through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), which currently does not have a clear funding mechanism to incorporate service coordinators.
“Service coordinators are the linchpin connecting low-income older residents living in federally assisted housing to such critical services as transportation and physician appointments. The work they do helps to reduce older adults’ need for emergency room visits, longer stays in the hospital or transfers to higher levels of care. Mission-driven affordable senior housing providers, including thousands of LeadingAge members, are eager to hire more service coordinators,” said LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan. “LeadingAge is grateful to Representative Smith for being a champion of service coordinators and recognizing their critical role in affordable housing communities.”
Service Coordinators in Affordable Housing
Currently, fewer than half of properties in Section 202, HUD’s flagship senior housing program, have a Service Coordination program. Lack of funding and streamlined guidance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) create difficult barriers for housing providers who want to provide service coordination to residents.
Legislation to Expand and Improve Service Coordination
The Multifamily Housing Service Coordinator Program embeds staff in federally assisted housing to coordinate a wide field of services for older adults and people with disabilities like meal services, medication management, and transportation to appointments.
Service coordinators create critical networks for residents to receive social services that can help them age in place, but current Service Coordination programs are underfunded and underutilized.
The Expanding Service Coordinators Act adds both funding and process enhancements for Service Coordination in affordable housing. Specifically, the bill would:
Authorize an additional $100 million each year for five years to the Multi-Family Housing Service Coordinator program.
Authorize a total $45 million each year for five years for the Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency service coordinator program.
Authorize a new $37 million grant program through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to award 150 grants to eligible properties to fund service coordinators.
Establish a training set aside to improve capacity and retention of service coordinators.
Extend qualification for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to service coordinators.
Direct GAO to report on the availability and work of service coordinators in rural areas.
LeadingAge Advocacy on Service Coordination
While lawmakers are in their home districts during the August recess, LeadingAge encourages housing providers to invite Congress in your Neighborhood and advocate for the new legislation and other affordable housing priorities. More information and resources for advocacy are available in LeadingAge’s advocacy action center.
LeadingAge will continue to advocate for increased service coordinator funding and to improve the administration of current Service Coordination programs. To join LeadingAge’s members-only workgroup on Housing and Services, email Juliana.