The US House of Representatives recently cut funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), forcing tens of thousands of older, low-income job seekers out of labor market. When Carrollton resident Gloria Creason found herself unemployed, she turned to Experience Works and got a job at Missouri Valley Community Action Agency. Click to hear KMZU’s Chelsea Wade:
Creason said the work makes her feel more independent. “It’s very important for people my age to keep going and find a way to support themselves. What I get from Social Security is very little. I like to pay my own bills and this is the only way I can really make it,” said Creason. She said if she lost her job, she wouldn’t give up trying to get another. “If you don’t have something to do or something to look forward to, you’re going to go down hill very fast. This is keeping me going. You don’t get as depressed and, with a job, you have a goal. This is just a help in many ways,” adds Creason.
The budget passed by the House reduces funding for the program from $825 million down to $300 million – a drop of nearly 64 percent. It is not clear how many Missourians will loose their jobs.
“If these budget cuts become law they will have catastrophic implications for individuals who will be forced to leave the SCSEP program, their lifeline to self-sustainability,” said Billy Wooten, executive director of program operations for Experience Works. “The vast majority of those that enter the program face daily struggles – rationing food, choosing whether to pay rent or buy medications, or having to borrow money for gas to drive to job interviews. Many SCSEP participants are 70, 80 and 90 years old and are already on the brink of becoming homeless.”
Experience Works, a nonprofit organization that operates the SCSEP in 30 states and Puerto Rico, conducted a survey of SCSEP participants that underscores the forthcoming crisis if they are forced out of the program. According to the survey:
- Nearly half (46 percent) of SCSEP participants say they sometimes have to choose between paying rent, purchasing food or purchasing medications.
- Half (50 percent) need to keep working so they don’t lose their homes or apartments.
- 43 percent are looking for work now because they were laid off from their previous positions.
- 64 percent have been looking for work one year or longer.
“These older Americans want to continue working,” said Wooten. “This is a crisis for vulnerable, low-income seniors who face many challenges in becoming reemployed. The alternative is for them to turn to dwindling public assistance for basic needs, without the benefit of advancing their own skills, earning a paycheck and contributing to their communities through work.”