AARP, which has given its full-throated support to Democratic health care legislation even though seniors remain largely opposed, received an $18 million grant in the economic stimulus package for a job training program that has not created any jobs, according to the Obama administration's Recovery.gov website.
The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), according to the website, is "a work training program for unemployed mature workers who are 55+ and are at or below 125% of the poverty guidelines." So far, $6.5 million has been spent on the program, and it has not reported creating any jobs.
In February, the Politico reported that AARP was putting pressure on Republican members of Congress to support the stimulus package.
Since then, AARP has moved on to lobbying for passage of health care legislation, even though Democratic proposals have called for several hundred billion dollars in cuts to Medicare, a program that the group typically defends tooth and nail when Republicans propose cutting it. A recent Pew survey found that just 31 percent of those over 65 supported health care legislation being touted by AARP.
As it turns out, AARP is also in a position to benefit financially if the health care legislation passes, because seniors losing benefits as a result of cuts to Medicare Advantage will be forced to buy Medigap policies, which is the main source of AARP revenue.
Barry Rand, the chief executive of AARP, was a big donor to the Obama campaign and has retained a cozy relationship with the administration.
The stimulus grant to AARP was reported by WatchDog.org, a site run by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which also found that stimulus funds were funneled into another liberal interest group, the National Council of La Raza.
UPDATE: AARP has not yet returned a call seeking comment.
UPDATE 2: AARP responds that the purpose of the program is not to create jobs, but to offer job training and find work for participants, an effort the group claims has been successful. Here's the full response, from Drew Nannis, AARP's senior vice president:
“The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is a job training program that places older workers living at or below the poverty line at community non-profit organizations. The AARP Foundation is one of 18 national organizations that administer SCSEP for the US Department of Labor.
“In 2009, the US Department of Labor allotted all 18 national sponsors of the SCSEP program, as well as the state-level SCSEP programs, additional funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help older Americans reenter the workforce. These funds were allotted in direct proportion to the amount each organization receives annually for the program. AARP Foundation received $18 million.
“We understand there is some confusion stemming from the reporting outputs listed on Recovery.gov. Simply put, the federal stimulus program reporting documents ask organizations to report the number of jobs created at the organization receiving the funds. AARP’s role in administering the SCSEP program is not to create jobs at AARP. Instead, we stipend SCSEP participants who train at and provide additional services at no cost to community non-profit organizations. Participants receive on-the-job training and local non-profits increase their capacity to help the communities they serve.
“In just the first four months of additional funding, 2,601 people are being trained while working at local non-profit organizations. This translates into:
-- $315,000 in weekly training stipends for SCSEP participants
-- 46,000 hours of no-cost service provided to our host agencies each week (valued at about $980,000)
“Additionally, to date we have placed 500 retrained older workers into permanent jobs in 75 communities across the nation.
“The AARP Foundation is incredibly proud of SCSEP. Over a 40 year history, SCSEP has helped more than 500,000 lower-income older Americans find jobs and provided more than $190 million a year in no-cost services to 5,000 non-profit organizations across the country.”
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