ARPA Grant: Helping Older San Antonians Recover From The Pandemic

The challenge

The Challenge: Technology access is a critical need for older adults. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and “shelter in place” mandates, senior centers were shuttered, travel reduced, caregivers strained, and older adults, in San Antonio and elsewhere, bore a disproportionate risk of isolation, illness, and death.  Across the nation, older adults accounted for over 80% of COVID-related deaths, with 40% were unable to access resources online because they were without home internet.

The strategy

The Strategy: The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), delivered $350 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency. On March 9, 2023, the San Antonio City Council approved a plan to allocate ARPA grant funds to organizations and services that provide programming for older San Antonian, addressing social isolation, reduce food and resource insecurity for those with financial constraints; support caregivers, and improve the safety and quality of care of older adults.

The solution

The Solution: The City of San Antonio’s Department of Human Services and Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP are working together to implement technology programs to support older San Antonians. Under a two-year grant, OATS, through its flagship program Senior Planet, is providing tech support and hundreds of virtual and in-person classes to engage 2,200 older adult participants. Grant efforts involve direct mailers sent to older adults residing in ten targeted zip codes to provide information about Senior Planet online resources, access to a technology help hotline, and technology training programs available at local senior-serving community centers, including classes about how to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). OATS will capture program impact and broader participants gains through data collection activities by reviewing program survey data, call logs, as well as qualitative information gathered through formal and informal discussions with participants in programs. Program Update: On June 23, the first class of older adult San Antonians graduated from the ARPA-sponsored Senior Planet training program, celebrated at the Alhambra Senior Apartments in San Antonio.