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One Year Since the Elder Economic Security Standard Index – Still A Lot of Work to be Done

It has been one year since we released the Pennsylvania Elder Economic Security Standard Index, a study looking at the cost of housing, food, health care, transportation, and home and community based long-term care services for elders throughout Pennsylvania. For all elders, particularly women, there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve retirement security.

Women in Pennsylvania have less income than men, and therefore are more likely to face challenges just to make ends meet. Over their lifetime, women earn 38% of what men earn. Despite the fact that women tend to live longer and therefore need their money to go further, women tend to be concentrated in and recruited for jobs without pensions. Meanwhile, investment and financial counseling programs tend to target high earning men.

Here are some of the policy solutions we recommend:

State Income Policies:
- Support Housing Programs - Without affordable housing, attaining economic security is nearly impossible for the majority of older low-income renters and for many senior homeowners.
- Remove Application Barriers - Elders face numerous barriers to a successful application and receipt of public supports, including those caused by low income limits, misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about programs, and the stigma of using some programs.
- Support Home and Community-Based Options - Policy in Pennsylvania must be changed to allow people who spend down their assets to receive home and community-based long-term care under Medicaid.

National Income Policies:
- Increase the Survivor Portion of Social Security - A widow’s income drops substantially after the loss of their spouse. With Social Security providing 58% of the income of widows 65 and over, an increase in the survivor portion will help ensure that widows are not hurt financially by the loss of their spouse.
- Enforce Current Anti-discrimination Laws - By enforcing anti-discrimination laws, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, women move closer to achieving equal pay for equal work.
- Reform Paid Family Leave - Paid family leave policies need to be revisited and reworked so that women are not financially penalized for caretaking.
- Increase Federal Housing Supports - Housing is the number one cost for elders, and supports such as property tax reform will help alleviate the burden of housing costs for retired women.
If you would like to read the study please visit, http://www.pathwayspa.org/EESS.pdf.

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