The Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are starting to float lists of programs to be cut from the federal budget, and several programs dear to seniors are being targeted. Republicans have been after these programs for years, specifically the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Senior Corps. This year, though, with Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, there is a real danger that the cuts could come to pass.
Seniors all across the country — in rural areas and cities — rely on National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service (TV) for news. culture, information, and entertainment. Public broadcasting keeps us in touch with what’s happening in our country and our world. If we lost it, we would be isolated and far less informed.
The National Endowment for the Arts provides grants that bring art and music to communities big and small. Its accessibility program does great work in making the arts accessible to people with disabilities, older adults, veterans, and people living in institutions.
The National Endowment for the Humanities is currently funding 290 humanities projects in 43 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This is the organization responsible for Ken Burns’ series, The Civil War, and it is sponsoring the creation of a website to preserve Studs Terkel’s interviews with Carl Sagan, Bob Dylan, Maya Angelou, and many others who have shaped our culture. In 2016, Common Sense for Seniors staff led a seminar on aging at the Yates County History Center with support from the New York Council for the Humanities, which in turn is funded in part by NEH.
The Senior Corps, conceived during the Kennedy Administration, links 270,000 55+ seniors to service opportunities in their communities. The Foster Grandparents program helps seniors serve as role models, mentors, and friends to children in their communities, while the RSVP program gives seniors the chance to use the skills they have acquired over the years, or to develop new skills, in such areas as home renovation and tutoring. In our part of western New York, RSVP-trained volunteers are active in leading Bone Builders groups, staffing food pantries, providing home-delivered meals and medical transportation, serving as Reading Buddies in elementary schools, and offering tax counseling. Senior Companions, also sponsored by the Senior Corps, assist other seniors who need help in performing the daily tasks of living.
These programs so important to seniors account for less than one-tenth of one per cent of federal spending. They are being attacked for ideological reasons rather than for any savings that might result from cutting them. If they are cut, our society will be the poorer for it, and seniors will suffer. So if you’re attending a town hall with your member of Congress, or if you feel moved to make a call to a Senator or Representative’s office, please be sure to speak up for these programs that mean so much to us.