Statement Of Anthony R. Sarmiento
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 3, 2003
Anthony R. Sarmiento
Senior Service America Inc.
Senior Service America Inc.
First, let me thank the Environmental Protection Agency and its two local co-sponsors, the University of South Florida and the West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging, for convening this first of six public listening sessions to shape a national agenda on the environment and the aging.
For more than three decades, Senior Service America has been the second-largest national sponsor of the U.S. Department of Labor's Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Each year, we have provided funds to more than 140 local nonprofit organizations and government agencies in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Our unusually diverse network of subgrantees-which makes us unique among all other SCSEP national sponsors-includes 34 local area agencies on aging, 10 faith-based organizations, five institutions of higher education and 75 various community-based organizations. We serve urban, suburban and rural areas in ecologically diverse regions.
As you may know, we also are a sponsor of the Senior Environmental Employment Program.
We know that Senior Service America can contribute to Parts Two and Three of your national agenda: preparing for an aging society and encouraging older adults to volunteer to address environmental hazards.
Concerning Part Two (Preparing for an Aging Society), we think we can assist the EPA by disseminating and collecting information about the Aging Initiative through our network of subgrantees. The vast majority of our subgrantees, deeply rooted in their own communities, are involved already in such broader issues as housing, transportation, health care, recreation and other quality of life issues. For some of our subgrantees, environmental issues are at the center of their mission. For instance, we give subgrants to 14 regional planning entities or councils of government in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.
To support this EPA initiative, we informed our subgrantee network of this session and the five other public listening sessions, and some of them were able to join us today. We expect subgrantees in other parts of the country to make presentations or offer written comments. Next month, we plan to provide an update of the EPA Aging Initiative at our annual conference of subgrantees.
Concerning Part Three (Encouraging Older Adults to Volunteer to Address Environmental Hazards), we think that our Senior Community Service Employment Program represents an important vehicle for engaging our nation's seniors in programs and strategies designed to enhance the environment for all generations. The funding we give our subgrantees every year employs more than 15,000 low-income seniors 55 years or older to provide a wide range of community services. Senior Service America is committed to encouraging our subgrantee network to assign a larger number of seniors to perform environment-related work in their communities.
Participating seniors-whom we call Senior Aides-are paid to work 20 hours a week at the minimum wage. This represents a level of compensation similar to what is provided to AmeriCorps* State and National members.
Some of our subgrantees already assign Senior Aides to work for nonprofit or public agencies doing work related to the environment. For example, the Board of County Commissioners in Palm Beach, one of our seven subgrantees in Florida, has a Senior Aide working at a local EPA office. Another subgrantee, the Miami Beach Community Development Corp., wishes to learn more about how to engage its Senior Aides in work related to environmental concerns, and is represented here today.
A quick sampling of our subgrantees identified other environment-related organizations currently included among the more than 5,000 host agencies for our Senior Aides, including:
- Swain County (NC) Recycling Department
- Lancaster County (PA) Conservancy
- Lower Shore Enterprises Inc. (MD)
- Flanders Nature Center (CT)
- Hartley Nature Center (MN)
- Baltimore Environmental Control Board (MD)
- Urban Harvest (TX)
- Earth Conservation Corps (DC)
We also have begun to identify model intergenerational environmental projects in conjunction with Generations Together, an international center for intergenerational studies at the University of Pittsburgh established in 1978. In addition to providing technical assistance to Senior Service America's current intergenerational tutoring program, Generations Together also operates programs in service-learning, tutoring and continuing education/certification for intergenerational specialists.
As previously mentioned, Senior Service America will take specific steps to promote greater involvement of Senior Aides in environment-related work at our annual conference of subgrantees next month in Pittsburgh. We will hold conference sessions to explain the EPA Aging Initiative, highlight the related work of subgrantees and explore new intergenerational activities with Generations Together.
In conclusion, Senior Service America is committed to participating in the EPA Aging Initiative through our subgrantees, their network of host agencies and the thousands of older Americans who are serving their communities through our program. These seniors have answered the president's call to service. They are deeply committed to fostering our national culture of citizenship, service and responsibility. We are confident that EPA's Aging Initiative will be warmly embraced not only by the seniors in our program, but also by many others throughout the country.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide these comments. We would be pleased to provide any additional information you request.
For more information about Senior Service America, call 301-578-8900 or see http://www.seniorserviceamerica.org.