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Legislation to strengthen workforce development programs for older Americans by creating grant opportunities to hire older worker coordinators and establishing a new Older Workers Bureau at the Department of Labor

WASHINGTON, D.C– Today, U.S. Representatives Marie Newman (D-IL-03), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Don Beyer (D-VA-8) and Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX-29) introduced the Supporting Older Workers Act, a new bill designed to improve and advance the employment, economic success and the well-being of America’s older workers. The legislation would strengthen the workforce development system for older workers and reduce current barriers in the labor market by improving career counseling and training opportunities, creating a grant program to support older worker coordinators and establishing a new Older Workers Bureau at the Department of Labor (DOL). 

“Last year saw more older Americans leave the workforce than at any time in the past seven decades. This pandemic has created an undue burden on the shoulders of older workers, especially older low-income workers, and it’s past time Congress steps up to provide them with the supports they need and deserve,” said Congresswoman Marie Newman. “By passing the Supporting Older Workers Act, we can lift up an essential part of America’s workforce through more counseling, job trainings, grant opportunities and dedicated coordinators who will help ensure our older Americans thrive in their jobs.” 

“Many older Americans are in the workforce, and they often face unique barriers to employment,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “I’m glad to join Reps. Newman, Beyer, and Garcia in introducing the Supporting Older Workers Act to enhance our current workforce system to better meet the needs of older workers. Our legislation will help older workers by improving access to career counseling and creating an Older Workers Bureau at the Department of Labor.” 

“The pandemic made a bad situation worse for older workers, who are a large and growing portion of America’s workforce,” said Congressman Don Beyer. “One third of near-retirees have neither a defined benefit pension nor a defined contribution plan, leaving too many struggling to stay afloat, living paycheck to paycheck. Congress must do more to meet their needs, and our bill would help older workers remain competitive in a changing economy. I thank my colleagues for their work on this important issue.” 

“I am proud to support this effort to support our older workers and help them access the opportunities they need to succeed,” said Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia. “The Supporting Older Workers Act is essential to help workers disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and to break down barriers, provide the resources needed, and empower older individuals to rejoin the workforce and thrive.” 

Due to the economic downturn surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, last year saw more workers aged 65 and older leave the labor force than in any year since 1948 when the U.S. began tracking this information. Older workers who are unemployed typically take twice as long as younger individuals to find new employment, and often enter jobs with significantly lower wages than their previous job.  

To address these workforce disparities, the Supporting Older Workers Act would: 

  • Improve career counseling and training for older workers: The bill would allow localities to use federal funding to focus on older workers’ employment options and training needs and create specialized centers for older workers at local American Jobs Centers. 
  • Create a grant program to support older worker coordinators: The legislation would create a grant program for state and local workforce boards to hire special coordinators, who will promote the employment and workforce development of older workers and coordinate with labor organizations, Area Agencies on Aging, community colleges, non-profits and more to cultivate supportive services for older workers.  
  • Establish an Older Workers Bureau at the Department of Labor: Similar to the Women’s Bureau at the DOL, the bill would create an Older Workers Bureau that is designed to advance employment, economic success, and well-being of older individuals through policy development, research and reporting, and technical assistance. 

A number of organizations released the following statements endorsing the Supporting Older Workers Act: 

“Similar to the Great Recession, older workers have lost jobs in massive numbers during the pandemic economic downturn, and struggle with long-term unemployment at rates greater than their younger counterparts. Millions more have abandoned the job search entirely and opted for early retirement, putting their already tenuous financial security at risk in their later years. Now is the time to make substantive changes in the programs and systems that help Americans return to work, particularly older adults,” said Ramsey Alwin, President and CEO of the National Council on Aging. “On behalf of the National Council on Aging, I applaud Rep. Newman for her leadership on the Supporting Older Workers Act, to bring high-level, substantive federal attention to the challenges and opportunities of an aging workforce, and incentivize state and local targeting and innovation to meet the needs of older workers. We urge Congress to incorporate these proposals in upcoming workforce development policymaking.” 

“We have a once in a generation window of opportunity to create a truly equitable and inclusive U.S. Workforce. The Supporting Older Workers Act will provide a critical new resource for a segment of the population too often marginalized by ageism and lack of workforce investment,” said Gary A. Officer, President and CEO of the Center for Workforce Inclusion. “If enacted, this legislation will prove to be a game changer for our nation’s older workers. This is our moment. This is our opportunity.” 

“Ageism is preventing capable, dedicated and productive older workers from being hired,” said Peter Kaldes, President and CEO, American Society on Aging. “We applaud Reps. Newman, Bonamici, Garcia, and Beyer for introducing the Supporting Older Workers Act, which has the federal incentives and training necessary to change employers views on the value of older workers.” 

A full list of endorsing organizations include: the National Council on Aging, National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, American Society on Aging, Center for Workforce Inclusion, Justice in Aging, National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP), National Association for Hispanic Elderly, Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), SER Jobs for Progress National, Inc., Goodwill Industries International, Inc., National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, and National Senior Corps Association.