Spotlight Exclusives

New Policies for Poverty and Aging, by Robin Talbert, President, AARP Foundation

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At a time when our nation۪s economy is turbulent, we must focus attention on American poverty trends across the generational spectrum. A growing number of older adults live in poverty. Nearly one in five families headed by a person age 50 or over is poor and has debt payments in excess of 40 percent of their total income. According to a new AARP Foundation report, older women, minorities and persons living alone are those most vulnerable to poverty.

I am pleased that recently, the Internal Revenue Service began a campaign to notify and assist more than 5 million qualifying retirees and veterans who have not yet applied for their economic stimulus payment. That۪s well over $1.5 billion in assistance waiting to be paid by the federal government. This is truly a collaborative effort, as IRS staff work with national partners, members of Congress, and state and local officials to reach all those who are qualified to file. These payments can make a real difference in household budgets during this economic downturn. The payments are up to $300 per person, and additional funds are available for eligible individuals married and filing jointly, as well as those who are married and have qualifying children under age 17.

The AARP Foundation applauds the efforts of government, philanthropies, and nonprofit organizations to provide assistance to those who struggle to make ends meet. In particular, we at the AARP commend the Half in Ten initiative, which aspires to reduce American poverty by half in the next ten years. Half in Ten۪s goals were recently discussed at the AARP Foundation۪s symposium on Poverty and Aging, on July 30, which brought together some of the most innovative thought leaders addressing this critical challenge. Half in Ten۪s agenda aligns well with many philanthropic efforts and has already amassed significant commitments.

The over $1.5 billion represented by the unclaimed economic stimulus payments marks an important opportunity to help struggling American families. We should all share responsibility with the IRS to identify eligible people and then use our collective resources to assist them with filing. Many of us have staff, resources, volunteers, and the expertise needed to help eligible individuals file by the October 15 deadline. These dollars have the power to make a real difference in people۪s lives. But individuals must file by the deadline or they won۪t see stimulus checks arriving in their mailboxes. The AARP۪s Tax Aide program has already reached out to 500,000 individuals who qualified for the stimulus and helped them to claim it. These people and the 2.3 million others the AARP has helped with tax preparation represent a good start in bringing benefits to those who need them most. Of course, more needs to be done.

These economic stimulus payments can help the most vulnerable among us. In this down economy, these payments will provide needed assistance to struggling American retirees and veterans. As a nation we must address the critical issues of rising health care costs, the housing crisis, and a culture of increasing debt and decreasing savings. Together we must work for solutions to poverty across all generations.

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