Seniors key to Democratic win

Published in RINewsToday on November 28, 2022

Just weeks before the midterm elections, Oct. 18th, AARP Rhode Island released a voting analysis of the Sept. 13th Rhode Island primary election, revealing that voters ages 50 + were the most powerful election deciders. More than 70% of Rhode Island’s older voters turned out to vote.  

A newly released Washington, DC-based AARP study found that older voters also had a major impact on 63 of the most competitive House races nationwide, including Rhode Island, in the mid-term elections. 

AARP’s post-election survey of voters should send a powerful message to Capitol Hill, that is “Don’t take the votes of seniors for granted.”

According to AARP’s voting analysis findings, voters 50 and over made-up 61% of the 2022 electorate in the targeted Congressional Districts. The predicted red wave sputtered because of older female voters, say the researchers. Democrats were able to win these districts because of the senior vote, particularly women over 65 who shifted away from voting GOP compared to their intensions from this summer.

The researchers found that President Biden’s job approval rebounded markedly, driven by voters aged 65+, particularly among women. When they looked at former President Trump’s approval rate, they found it had decreased among this same group.

AARP also noted that Black and Hispanic voters continued to drift to the GOP while Democrats continued to gain white, college age and female voters. 

AARP’s voting analysis study also found that in 63 most competitive House races that were also surveyed in July, voters age 65+ shifted from favoring Republican candidates 50% to 40%, to favoring Democrats 49% to 46% in November. The voting analysis found that Democrats came away with a 2-point lead over Republican candidates among voters overall (18+) and voters aged 50-64 leaned Republican by 8 points. Overall, voters 50+ accounted for 61% of the electorate in these key districts.

“Americans aged 50+ once again proved that they are the nation’s most powerful voters and they were the deciders in this year’s midterm elections,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer in a statement released with the 36-page report on Nov. 17, 2022. “They were crystal clear that they want elected officials to work together to address crucial issues that will ensure their health and financial security. Elected officials and candidates can’t afford to ignore this formidable group of voters and the issues that matter to them,” she notes.

Top concerns of older voters

According to AARP’s National Targeted Congressional District-post-election Survey, inflation and rising prices (33%) were the top concern for voters overall, followed by abortion (28%) and threats to democracy (25%).

The survey also showed differences in the issues most important to voters 50-64 vs. those age 65 and older. Inflation and rising prices were top of mind for the 50-64 age group. Among voters 65+, threats to democracy (30%), inflation (29%), and Social Security and Medicare (24%) topped the list, the study’s findings indicate.

The researchers also found that more than half of voters (53%) said they were worried about their personal financial situation, with 65% of those who voted Republican and 42% who voted Democrat said they were worried. 

The study’s report also noted that 70% voted more for the candidate they chose, rather than against the other candidate;  Independents and younger voters were more likely to say they voted against the other candidate.

The analysis also found that a majority (53%) voted for the candidate they thought would work in a bipartisan manner, while 42% preferred candidates they thought stayed true to their beliefs and stood firm in their positions. By 36 points, Democrats preferred candidates who they thought were bipartisan, while Republicans voted by a 25 point margin for candidates they thought would stay true to their beliefs.

Methodology

As to the study’s methodology, AARP commissioned the bipartisan polling team of Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research to conduct this survey. The firms interviewed 2,353 adults in 63 of the U.S. House districts that Cook Political Report rated as “Lean” or “Toss Up” as of Nov. 7, 2022. This included a sample of 1,903 2022 general election voters distributed across the districts and 450 adults who did not vote in the 2022 general election. The interviews were conducted via landline, cellphone, and SMS-to-web between November 9-10, 2022.

AARP’s statement noted that approximately 30 voter interviews were conducted in each congressional district and any non-voters who were encountered were also interviewed. The overall sample was weighted by age, gender race and education to be representative of the adult population in the 63 congressional districts based on demographic data from the U.S. Census and consumer data. The voter sample was weighted on congressional vote choice to match 2022 election results.

To see the completed research results, go to:

Pelosi passes gavel to “younger” generation

Published in RINewsToday on Nvember 21, 2022

With the dust settling after the mid-term elections and GOP taking control of the lower-chamber, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), followed by the No. 2 Democratic, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), will give up their leadership positions although both will keep their Congressional seats next year.

“While [House Majority Whip] Jim Clyburn [D-SC] has ceded his No. 3 position, he’s now seeking to remain in leadership next year in the No. 4 assistant leader slot,” reports Mike Lillis and Mychael Schnell, in a Nov. 19 article, “Democrats’ Leadership Shakeup in Decades Takes Shape with No Drama – Almost,” on the website, The Hill. In a letter to his Caucus members, Clyburn makes his case to stay in leadership by saying he would be a benefit to the new leadership team coming in next Congress.

Pelosi was first elected to Congress in 1987. Since 2003, Hoyer and Clyburn have led the House Democratic Caucus.

Kudos to retiring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Last Thursday, Nov. 17, Pelosi, 82, announced on the House floor that she would not seek a Democratic leadership role in the 108th Congress.  This came after the House lost its Democratic majority to the Republicans, albeit by a small margin.

“And with great confidence in our Caucus, I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” she said. “For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I am grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility,” said Pelosi, the first and only woman who served as House Speaker and led the Democratic House Caucus for over two decades.

With a slim Republican majority in the House, President Joe Biden had encouraged Pelosi to stay as House Speaker for the last two-years of his term. After her announcement, the President recognized her legislative accomplishments and serving her San Francisco constituents for over 35 years. “With her leading the way, you never worry about whether a bill will pass. If she says she has the votes, she has the votes,” he said.

“Speaker Pelosi, as President Biden said, will be remembered as the most consequential Speaker in our nation’s history. A key part of that role is empowering the next generation, and ensuring that the Democratic Caucus has strong leadership moving forward. I am thrilled that the Speaker will continue to serve in the 118th Congress, representing her home of San Francisco, and enabling the Caucus to continue to learn from her and benefit from her wisdom and experience,” says Congressman David Cicilline, representing RI Congressional District 1.

Cicilline calls Pelosi a brilliant political tactician 

In a statement released after Pelosi took to the House floor to step down from House Democratic leadership, Cicilline stated:   

“Today is a bittersweet day for our country as we mark the end of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as the leader of the House Democratic Caucus. I have been lucky enough to serve with and learn from one of the greatest political minds in our country for the past twelve years and am honored to call her a mentor, and most importantly, a close friend.  I remain in constant awe of her brilliance, toughness, and dedication to service. Nancy Pelosi led our party to the majority twice and saw our country through some of the toughest times in our nation’s history including the COVID pandemic and the attack on our democracy on January 6, 2021.” 

“The House Speaker’s historic career will not just be remembered for the barriers she broke but also for the incredible progress she delivered for the American people and her beloved San Francisco, said Rhode Island’s Senior Congressman.

According to Pelosi’s House leadership, the Democrats were able to reform the nation’s delivery of health care, deliver accessible and affordable care to millions of Americans, make the largest investment in infrastructure improvements and climate change mitigation in the country’s  history, also ensuring that every single American got the relief they needed and deserved as they faced a once in a lifetime global pandemic.  Pelosi also “protected the nation’s democracy against those who sought to overturn the election result and destroy the very fabric of our nation,” he said.

“Speaker Pelosi has always supported my work since I first came to Congress in 2011 and has been a steadfast ally on gun safety legislation and LGBTQ+ equality. I am also grateful for the trust she placed in me to serve as an impeachment manager following the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, says Cicilline.  

“In addition to our work in Washington, I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming her to Rhode Island many times, where her grandparents first met, and am thankful for her focus on delivering for every American and all Rhode Islanders,” noted the Rhode Island Congressman.

Cicilline added: “Having come from big, loving Italian families, we both learned from a young age the importance of putting family first and looking after our neighbors. We share a commitment and belief that every hardworking American deserves the ability to provide a safe, warm home for their children and the opportunity to get ahead. She has helped to deliver monumental legislation to empower Americans, including the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, providing paid parental leave for federal workers, expanding educational opportunities and student aid, and increasing the minimum wage.” 

“An outspoken proponent of equality, she has been a champion of the Equality Act and the Respect for Marriage Act and led the repeal of the homophobic ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to finally allow every member of our nation’s military to serve fully as themselves,” said Cicilline, noting that her “trailblazing 35-year tenure in Congress, 19 of those as Democratic Caucus leader, have been defined by her unwavering commitment to service, the American people, and belief that each of us deserves the chance to live our own American Dream.”   

Adds says Congressman-elect Seth Magaziner. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has served this democracy here and around the globe, while never losing sight of what matters most: rebuilding the American Dream for working people across the country.” 

“I thank Speaker Pelosi for her tremendous leadership and am excited for the next generation of leaders that will tackle the biggest questions of our time— rebuilding our middle class and creating a fairer economy, fighting climate change, and turning the page on Trump-extremism once and for all,” added Magaziner.

“Nancy Pelosi not only has been master of legislative procedure, a unifier of her caucus, a skilled tactician – and someone who broke the ‘marble ceiling’ for women in the halls of Congress. She shepherded several crucial pieces of legislation through Congress to improve the health and well-being of older Americans, including the Affordable Care Act and the Inflation Reduction Act,”  says Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM).

“She will be missed as a leader and a champion for our most vulnerable citizens,” says Richtman, noting that NCPSSM looks forward to a continued working relationship on issues vital to America’s seniors with whomever emerges as the next Democratic leadership team in the House.

During Pelosi’s announcement the Republican side of the chamber was nearly empty except for a few members, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana). Scheduled meetings kept House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy from attending Pelosi’s noontime announcement that she was stepping down as the House Democratic leader. Later he would tell reporters, “I had meetings but normally the others would do it during votes — she could’ve done that, I would’ve been there,”  he said.

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) noted that he had frequently disagreed “forcefully” over the years he congratulated the Democratic House Speaker on “concluding her historic tenure” and her “consequential and path-breaking career.”

Is Passing the Political Touch a Good Thing?    

At press time, Reps, Hakeem Jeffries, 52, of New York, Katherine Clark, 59, of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar, 43, of California are jockeying for the top three Democratic House leadership slots.

“The new leadership team is great, but it should not be exclusively composed of young lawmakers,” says Robert Weiner, former Chief of Staff to Congressman Claude Pepper’s House Select Committee on Aging, former White House staffer, who has written over 1,000 Op Eds published in major media outlets throughout the nation.  

Many characterize Pelosi, Hoyer, and Cyburn stepping down as the “passing of the political torch,” in the House, from one generation to the next, even though the new up and comers are in their 40s and 50s. Weiner questions, “Is this a good thing to celebrate.”

“I am very concerned about the lack of aging leadership with all the wisdom and guidance leaving the podium. “I have written about age discrimination including it occurrence in politics,” says Weiner, calling for voters to decide when it is time to go.

Will the new leadership team take guidance from the outgoing House Democratic Leadership Team?  “We will see how the new team seeks and takes the advice of recent leadership that had such success or puts them on the shelf,” says Weiner.

Advocates on aging issues review their priorities for Gov. McKee’s policy agenda

Published in RINewsToday on Nov. 14, 2022

Over 3 months ago, the Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island (SACRI) invited the six Gubernatorial candidates to give the details of their aging policy positions to hundreds gathering at East Providence High School, and watching virtually. With the dust settling after the Nov. 8 midterm elections, aging advocates are asking the winner, Gov. Dan McKee, to place a high priority on enacting aging policies that he supported during SACRI’s 143-minute forum.

McKee goes on the record

McKee addressed the issue that Rhode Island nursing home and home care providers can’t provide sufficient and sustainable wages to attract and retain workers because of low state reimbursement. When questioned about how he would rebuild and sustain a viable workforce to provide services to seniors and persons with disabilities, the Governor stated he has addressed staffing issues at home health agencies and nursing homes by expanding the Wavemaker Fellowships to include healthcare workers and increasing reimbursement rates for home health agencies by $900,000 annually.

More seniors prefer to age in place at home in their community rather then enter nursing homes. McKee gave his thoughts about Medicaid rebalancing and expanding the program to keep seniors at home. He touted the $10 million invested this year to rebalance the long-term care continuum, announcing his plans to soon issue an Executive Order to direct state agencies to review existing policies through

At the forum, McKee stated he will also direct all state agencies to appoint a representative to a task force, also including municipalities and community-based nonprofits, that will create a Statewide Aging Plan to determine where federal monies and grants can be utilized to support older Rhode Islanders.

During the mid-1990s the Department of Elderly Affairs (DEA) had a staff of 65. Demoted to the Office of Healthy Aging within the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, Gov. McKee went on record that he will support legislation next year to make the state’s Office of Healthy Aging a full cabinet department. He pledged to provide an adequate budget and staffing to oversee its programs and services to Rhode Island’s growing senior population.   

Gov. McKee also supported a yearly cost-of-living increase to the state Supplemental Security Income payment in the 2024 proposed budget. He also supported the increasing of eligibility for the Medicaid Savings Programs for seniors and people with disabilities in the proposed 2024 budget by eliminating the asset test and increasing eligibility to at least 185% Federal Policy Level. 

With the state passing $250 million in funding for housing, Gov. McKee agreed to provide an adequate amount to support senior housing.  He stated: “we’re off and running”, noting that he recently announced an investment of $80 million to construct 825 units in 17 communities.  The Governor noted that his 2030 plan speaks specifically on the issue of senior housing.

Make aging policy a priority

“With the growing needs of seniors throughout the country and within our state it is time to return to a function of government which “had teeth” to enact change for elders who were at risk,” says Bob Robillard, LMHC, President of Rhode Island Senior Center Directors Association, representing 34 Senior Centers, noting that his aging group is pushing for the passage of bipartisan legislation next session that will elevate the Office of Healthy Aging to a full department – cabinet – status. 

According to Robillard, having a seat at the table as a cabinet position, the Director would directly advocate with the Governor’s Office to address unmet needs and seek creative solutions for our seniors. 

Robillard also urged the Governor to continue efforts to develop secure and affordable housing that meets the need for increased  homelessness of Rhode Island seniors. ”Their income level and having to make difficult choices to survive each month is seen in our interactions with seniors every day, and they are increasingly utilizing food banks, emergency services, and our centers, and funding these basic services needs to be a top priority,” he says.

While some federal funds have been used to address this issue, Robillard says there is a “global need for a full and comprehensive Aging Plan for Rhode Island including the voices of direct service providers like the Senior Centers, senior advocates, caregivers and, of course, seniors, themselves.” 

Finally, Robillard believes that there should be a strong focus on transportation for seniors to access their community. “Safe, respectful and person-centered transportation in our rural areas throughout our state needs to be a focus,” he says, noting that if you cannot access your community in these ways then you cannot participate in them either.

With Rhode Island experiencing a critical shortage of homecare workers, Maureen Maigret, chair of the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council’s Aging in Community Subcommittee, calls on Gov. McKee to provide funding in the FY2024 budget to increase wages for CNAs working in home care. “The current budget includes $10 million to rebalance long term care. These funds should be used for wage increases for homecare direct care staff as an initial step to bring these invaluable workers fair wages,” says Maigret.

“It is also important to provide more resources to the Office of Healthy Aging and support for local senior services. Governor McKee started to increase funds for local aging services in the current budget and the Office of Healthy Aging has requested funding to provide each community ten dollars per person aged sixty-five and over next year,” adds Maigret, urging the Governor to include this in the budget he presents to the legislature for FY2024 as well as other funding requested by the Office including $.5million to support the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Center known as THE POINT. 

Gerontologist Deb Burton calls for the Governor to move forward to pass an Olmstead Plan to create opportunities for individuals to live in the least restrictive environments. “The Olmstead Plan would fit hand in glove with providing resources for individuals to age in the community, and not in institutions,” says Burton, who serves as Executive Director of RI Elder Info.  

Finally, Vincent Marzullo, well-known aging advocate who served as a federal civil rights and national service administrator, suggests that McKee direct the RI Commission for National/Community Service to identify AmeriCorps (national service) opportunities that would help build capacity and service delivery for our local senior centers and human services offices.  “Their needs have grown considerably during COVID,” says the West Warwick resident.

Editor’s Note: During the COVID weekly press conference time, Gov. Raimondo noted that changes need to be made in how people live in Rhode Island’s nursing homes, both from a communicable disease point of view, and from a humanity point of view. She announced a fund of $5 million to be put aside to support nursing homes transitioning their physical “plants” to be single room – single bathroom accommodations. Since Raimondo left office, there has been acknowledgement that this fund was set aside, but no action taken to address the mandate moving forward.