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Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly Talks About His $1.5B Plan To Help Aging Services Providers

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly is getting a crash course on what it means to grow old in a pandemic — which is why he and two other senators introduced a bill that would allocate roughly $1.5 billion to help fund aging services across the country. 

Kelly is optimistic his bill, which would provide money for vaccine outreach, meals and help for caregivers, will be included in the final $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

"I've got a senior citizens advisory group that I meet with, and I've heard a lot of stories, and they're, they're not positive," he said. "There are a lot of challenges that seniors are facing."

Like isolation, access to nutritious meals, technology hurdles. And when it comes to the vaccine rollout, which requires a computer and internet access, many  rural seniors have been largely forgotten about. 

There have also been substantial cuts both at the federal and state level to aging services providers, while demand for services — like Meals on Wheels — is increasing.

"We've got to make sure that Social Security is there, not only for them, but future generations, we've got to bring down the cost for seniors who are on Medicare and for these programs," he said.

Kelly also talked about nursing homes. He says the best situation is when a senior can remain at home, but that’s not always possible, which means getting long-term care facilities the resources they need to operate. 

KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.