At a time of record unemployment and hardship among the elderly poor, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is the only program in the U.S. that provides community services and work-based training to low-income, unemployed older Americans age 55-plus. (In fact, 83 percent are 60-plus, and 27 percent are 70-plus.)
Eligibility for SCSEP training is limited – only seniors whose incomes are lower than $13,613 (125 percent of the federal poverty level) can take part. Three out of five are women, and 51 percent are minorities.
SCSEP has 18 national sponsors who link SCSEP participants with training and then help them find real jobs. AARP Foundation SCSEP is its second-largest national sponsor and the most successful in moving participants to jobs: More than 500,000 older people have found work through AARP SCSEP.
AARP Foundation SCSEP places its trainees at "host agencies" – nonprofit organizations and local community service programs that provide almost every community service imaginable, from day care centers, schools and hospitals to food kitchens and VA centers.
In return, the agencies help SCSEP trainees build new skills – skills that will help them find work. Like most trainees, SCSEP participants don't earn much. The program, not the host agencies, subsidizes their training by paying them minimum wage for the 20 hours a week they train at their host agencies. At $7.25 an hour, that comes to $145 per week.
Why Else SCSEP Matters
SCSEP cuts will have a ripple effect on local economies. Almost all community service organizations and nonprofits are already dealing with state and federal budget cutbacks; those that can accept private donations have seen those drop, too. With fewer SCSEP trainees, host agencies will have to cut their services to vulnerable low-income people – children, the sick, the elderly – who need their services the most.
AARP Foundation SCSEP returns taxpayers' investments with interest. In 2010, AARP SCSEP's social return on investment (SROI) was $200 million.
Host agencies save $192 million in wages by using SCSEP trainees (based on Independent Sector volunteer wage valuation of $20.25 per hour x 9 million hours).
By turning users of federal funds into taxpayers, SCSEP saves $7.5 million a year (based on 5,000 SCSEP trainees finding unsubsidized jobs and paying $1,500 each in taxes).