Today the Administration for Community Living awarded two grants totaling $125 million to rapidly increase the number of older adults and people with disabilities who have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine and annual flu vaccine. These programs will distribute funding and leverage partnerships across the aging and disability networks to host community vaccine clinics, provide in-home vaccinations, provide transportation to vaccination sites, conduct outreach and education to older adults and disabled people, and more. Funding to start these crucial activities will begin to reach communities in the coming weeks.
The two grants have complementary, but distinct, areas of focus:
- USAging was awarded $75 million to establish and leverage partnerships and engagement with centers for independent living, area agencies on aging, state No Wrong Door systems, aging and disability resource centers, other ACL-funded disability networks, and other community-based organizations that serve older adults and disabled people.
- The National Council on Aging was awarded $50 million to build and leverage partnerships with senior centers, community centers, and local community- and faith-based organizations that reach older adults and people with disabilities.
“Staying up-to-date on vaccinations is the most important thing we all can do to protect ourselves from serious illness due to COVID-19 and flu as we head into winter, and it’s particularly crucial for older adults and people with disabilities, who face the greatest risks,” said ACL Acting Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging Alison Barkoff. “These grants reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing commitment to supporting communities in providing vaccinations, testing, and treatment and are an important part of the Administration’s COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan.”
Partnerships – between the two programs and across networks – are a central component of each grant. USAging and NCOA will build on their long history of collaboration to closely coordinate efforts to ensure their activities are complementary, rather than duplicative. In addition, the two organizations will leverage their extensive experience in building and coordinating coalitions of stakeholders to harness the power of aging and disability organizations at the national, state, and community level to reach disabled people and older adults where they are, ensure they have the information they need to make informed decisions, and provide the supportive services they may need to overcome barriers to vaccination.
In addition, USAging will launch and lead the Aging and Disability Vaccination Collaborative to quickly and effectively mobilize the aging and disability networks across the country. ILRU (Independent Living Research Utilization), the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and ADvancing States will serve as lead partners. The collaborative also includes: American Association of Service Coordinators; Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living; AT3 Center (National Assistive Technology Act Technical Assistance and Training Center); Autism Society of America; Diverse Elders Coalition; Lutheran Services in America; Meals on Wheels America; National Adult Day Services Association; National Asian Pacific Center on Aging; National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities; National Association of Nutrition and Aging Service Providers; National Caucus and Center on Black Aging; National Council on Independent Living; National Disability Rights Network; National Hispanic Council on Aging; National Indian Council on Aging; The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies; and SAGE (Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders).
Both programs will prioritize reaching older adults and people with disabilities who have been historically underserved and who face additional barriers to accessing vaccines, including but not limited to those who are from communities of color, LGBTQ+, Native American, and/or at risk of institutionalization; have low income and/or limited English proficiency; and/or live in rural areas.
The two programs will award sub-grants to fund vaccination programs in communities on a rolling basis. Information about the process for applying for sub-awards will be published by each organization in the coming weeks.
Disabled people and older adults have faced a disproportionate share of hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to significantly increased risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, many faced barriers to accessing COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations.
The aging and disability networks have played a pivotal role in helping older adults and people with disabilities overcome those barriers to get vaccinated. With that focused effort, most older adults and people with disabilities received the initial COVID-19 vaccine series, greatly reducing the most serious consequences of the disease, including hospitalization and death.
However, far fewer people with disabilities and older adults have gotten the updated vaccine that both boosts immunity and better protects against disease caused by the Omicron variant of the virus, putting them at increasing risk, particularly as people gather indoors over the holidays and during the winter. These grants will begin to address the urgent and critical need for additional focused efforts to increase vaccination awareness and uptake among these high-risk populations.