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Final Rule to Update Regulations for Older Americans Act Programs Rule Strengthens the System of Supports That Help Millions of People Age in Place

February 7, 2024
Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Community Living (ACL)

Today, ACL released a final rule to update regulations for implementing its Older Americans Act (OAA) programs. The first substantial update to most OAA program regulations since 1988, the rule aligns regulations to the current statute, addresses issues that have emerged since the last update and clarifies a number of requirements. It aims to better support the national aging network that delivers OAA services and improve program implementation, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the nation’s growing population of older adults can continue to receive the services and supports they need to live – and thrive – in their own homes and communities.

“Older Americans should be able to live independently and age with dignity,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to expanding access to health care, nutrition services, caregiving, and opportunities to age in place for all older Americans. This update to the Older Americans Act regulations strengthens the system of supports that help older people live independently and age with dignity.”

“The overwhelming majority of Americans want to live in their own homes as they age, and almost 95 percent of them do. For many, this is possible because of the programs and services provided through the Older Americans Act – such as rides to medical appointments, nutritious meals, in-home services, and support to family caregivers,” said Alison Barkoff, who leads the Administration for Community Living. “The updated regulations strengthen the stability and sustainability of these programs, and we are looking forward to working with our partners in the aging network to implement them.”

Key provisions of the 2024 Older Americans Act Final Rule

The updated regulations reinforce and clarify policies and expectations, provide guidance for programs authorized since the last update, promote appropriate stewardship of OAA resources, and incorporate lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the final rule:

  • Clarifies requirements for state and area plans on aging and details requirements for coordination among tribal, state, and local programs.
  • Improves consistency of definitions and operations between state and tribal programs.
  • Clarifies and strengthens provisions for meeting OAA requirements for prioritizing people with the greatest social and economic needs.
  • Specifies the broad range of people who can receive services, how funds can be used, fiscal requirements, and other requirements that apply across programs.
  • Clarifies required state and local agency policies and procedures. For example, the final rule establishes expectations regarding conflicts of interest.
  • Requires state agencies to maintain flexible and streamlined processes for area agencies on aging to receive approval to establish contracts and commercial relationships.
  • Includes guidance for the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Native American Caregiver Support Program, which were authorized since the last update.
  • Addresses emergency preparedness and response, incorporating lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Establishes expectations for legal assistance and activities to prevent elder abuse.
  • Clarifies the role of the aging network in defending against the imposition of guardianship and in promoting alternatives to guardianship.
  • Updates definitions, modernizes requirements, and clarifies flexibilities within the OAA nutrition programs. For example, the rule allows for continuation of innovations developed during the pandemic, such as providing carry-out meals through the congregate meals program (in some circumstances).

The final rule is the culmination of intensive collaboration over many years with the national aging network. It also reflects input received through a request for information; a series of listening sessions, including consultations with tribes and other engagement with Native American grantees; and more than 780 comments received in response to the June 2023 Notice of Proposed Rule Making from a wide range of organizations in the aging and disability networks. ACL is grateful to the many people and organizations whose contributions of time and thoughtful consideration of the rule were crucial to its finalization.

Learn more: implementation timeline and technical assistance:

The rule will take effect on March 15, 2024, but regulated entities have until October 1, 2025, to comply. ACL looks forward to working with partners in the aging network to implement this final rule.

In the coming months, ACL will share resources and provide robust technical assistance to support states, tribes and tribal organizations, area agencies on aging, and others in the aging network in complying with the provisions of the updated regulations. Save the dates for these upcoming webinars:

  • Informational Webinar:  Join ACL for an overview of the updated regulations on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. (Eastern). More information can be found on the Zoom registration page. 
  • Back to Basics technical assistance webinar: On Feb. 15 from 2-3:30 p.m. (Eastern), ACL will host the first in a series of webinars to support the network in implementing the updated regulations.

Additional information, including a link to the final rule, can be found on ACL.gov. (The final rule was posted “on display” in the Federal Register today, and will officially be published on February 14, 2024.)

News source: acl.gov/news-and-events/announcements/final-rule-update-regulations-older-americans-act-programs

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