The recession and its aftermath have not been easy on low income Americans age 50 and older. For many, their financial future is murky. Since December 2007, their unemployment rate reached a level last seen 60 years ago. Nearly one-third saw the value of their home decline over the last three years. A sizable proportion fell behind on credit card payments or accumulated more credit card debt.
Moreover, two years after the economy technically turned the corner from recession to recovery, millions of older Americans are still feeling the devastating impact of long-term unemployment.
- About 60,000 more people aged 55 and over were unemployed in June 2011 than in May 2011. The unemployment rate for this age group rose from 6.8 percent to 7.0 percent — exactly where it was at the official end of the recession two years ago (June 2009 )and still more than double its rate in December 2007, when the recession began.
- It takes older job seekers longer to find work. The average time exceeded a year in April 2011, then rose to 54.7 weeks in May 2011.
- Once unemployed, older adults are less likely to become reemployed at a similar position; many take jobs for lower pay than their previous employment.
Although helping people obtain jobs offering good wages and benefits is the most critical element of recovery, obtaining a job is half the battle. The other half is dealing with the effects of long-term unemployment and with the potential reduction of unemployment benefits. While this is happening, older workers need access to income supports and social services necessary to help meet their basic needs and protect their families' financial security.
Thus, in AARP Foundation's Income Grants Program, priority will be given to those proposals that identify and implement unique models for providing a continuum of services for unemployed people over 50. These services should address both the need to upgrade skills and obtain employment as well as the need to increase existing financial stability by improving access to benefits, work supports and services that help protect families from severe economic distress.
Proposals should address the following elements:
Element 1: Secure Employment
Successful projects funded through this RFP will prepare older workers for and connect them with employment in quality jobs with living wages and benefits in high growth and emerging industries.
Training projects should be focused on employability skills, workplace skills, competencies and credentials demanded by employers and industries in their communities.
Element 2: Increase Stability
This RFP will fund those projects that, in addition to providing employment and training services, explore the critical interplay between recession and recovery, and include services such as increasing access to and enrollment in work and income supports for age 50 and over working poor and their families to sustain themselves through periods of unemployment and reduce financial stress.