Baltimore Field Hearing - Introductions and Opening Remarks
I'd like to open today's hearing with just a few comments.
In many instances, government is reactive rather than proactive, and policy is determined by budget rather than need. In 1999, former Congressman Rick Lazio sponsored legislation that has given us a rare opportunity to be proactive - to be creative. He recognized that serving the overwhelming and diverse population to come is a task requiring considerable preparatory work - it cannot be handled overnight, and will require substantial changes in federal, state & local policies, service delivery and funding.
This bipartisan Seniors Commission is identifying the policies that have worked and those that have failed in providing housing and services to the elderly over time. But, perhaps most importantly, we are considering alternative approaches to effectively address the future.
The future will be comprised of a generation of consumers that is accustomed to personal independence, financial planning, consumer choice - their needs and expectations will differ greatly from those of our current seniors. Their health, wealth and social attributes will, likewise, vary significantly.
We realize that, in order to help seniors stay in the least restrictive, most cost-effective environment for the longest period of time, we need to link housing with supportive services. As of the 2000 census, we know that
We have begun to see the "graying of America."
By 2020, we expect 1 in 6 Americans will be aged 65 and older. This translates to 53 million Americans. How are we to accommodate them with the quantity of housing & service options they require, and the quality they deserve?
Our research efforts have produced a picture of the present generation of seniors and what we are likely to expect in the future. More than 25% of all low-income seniors require some type of physical assistance to complete daily tasks. That number increases to 33% for poorer seniors living in rent-assisted housing. More than ever, we must look to eliminate barriers that exist between housing and health services. Better coordination will result in prolonged independence, preserved dignity and enhanced quality of life.
As the population grows, the finite public resources dedicated to addressing senior needs will become strained. With this in mind, the Seniors Commission is looking to preserve, modernize and retrofit existing housing stock to meet needs more efficiently and effectively. Public - private partnerships will be necessary to expand the volume and type of housing alternatives of the 21st century.
We seek to recommend innovative approaches to ensure that every American senior has access to quality, affordable housing and a network of health care necessary to lead meaningful lives in their later years.
I am confident that our report to Congress, due three short months from now, will lead to legislation that
We have been given a valuable opportunity to make a comprehensive policy statement on the issues we care about so deeply. We have begun to draft a report that is a tool for change; a document that looks to the policies of the future in a realistic manner. A document that is valuable to Congress, associations, providers and consumers. That is my goal as we enter the homestretch of this process.
This may be the last hearing for the Seniors Commission, but it is just the beginning of the challenging work ahead. I am looking forward to that work, and I am looking forward to hearing from those of you in attendance today.
We are pleased to have Congressman Elijah Cummings join us today.
In November of 2000, Congressman Cummings was re-elected with 87 percent of the vote, to his fourth term in Congress.
Congressman Cummings serves on the Government Reform Committee, is the Ranking Democrat on the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy & Human Resources Subcommittee and is a member of the Civil Service & Agency Organization Subcommittee. He also serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and its Subcommittee on Highways & Transit and Subcommittee on Railroads. He is Vice-Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, co-chair of the House AIDS Working Group, and a member of the Democratic Policy Committee and the House Task Force on Health Care Reform.
Prior to his election to Congress, he served in the Maryland House of Delegates for 16 years. He was the youngest person to be elected as Chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and was the first African American to be named Speaker Pro-Tem, the second highest position in the House of Delegates.
Congressman Cummings serves on several Maryland boards and commissions. An active member of New Psalmist Baptist Church, Congressman Cummings lives in the Madison Park community in Baltimore City.
Please join me in welcoming Congressman Elijah Cummings-
I would like to thank, once again, those who have joined us today. You have certainly set the right tone for us to begin our field hearing here in Baltimore.
Now, I will be turning over the process to the Commission's Financing Strategies Task Force Chair, Diana McIver.
Diana is President of Diana McIver Associates of Austin, Texas. She has been helping to build affordable housing for the past 22 years. Prior to that she served on the staff of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and as Director of Elderly Programs for the National Center for Housing Management.
Diana is our expert on financing, and has been an energetic leader in doing the Commission's work. Getting to know her has been a highlight of my Commission work and I do not know what we would have done without her.
Diana, the floor is yours-
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