Assistance programs feed seniors
Dear Savvy Senior,
I run a community counseling program for needy families and am frustrated that so few eligible seniors take advantage of the food stamp program. Can you write a column on this to help educate seniors to this underutilized benefit?
It’s hard to imagine that a government program serving more than 46 million Americans each month is considered severely underutilized. But that’s the reality of the federal Food Stamp Program when it comes to serving seniors.
Nationwide, food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) reaches around 80 percent of those eligible, but the numbers are much slimmer among the seniors, age 60 and older. Recent statistics indicate only 39 percent of eligible seniors receive SNAP benefits.
There are a number of reasons for the lack of participation. Some seniors are too embarrassed or too proud to apply. Others think that if they receive SNAP they will be taking food benefits away from others (which they won’t). Some think it is too difficult to apply for SNAP, and others don’t even know the program exists.
With all that said, here’s a run down of which seniors are eligible for SNAP, what they get and how they can apply.
For seniors to get SNAP, their “net income” must be under the 100 percent federal poverty guidelines. So, households that have at least one person age 60 and older, or disabled, their net income must currently be less than $958 per month for an individual or $1,293 for a family of two. Households receiving TANF or SSI (except in California) are also eligible.
Net income is figured by taking gross income minus allowable deductions like medical expenses that exceed $35 per month out-of-pocket, and shelter costs (rent or mortgage payments, taxes, and utility costs) that exceeds half of the household’s income.
In addition to the net income requirement, a few states also require that a senior’s “assets” be below $3,250, not counting the home, retirement or pension plans, income from SSI or TANF, and vehicle (this varies by state). Most states, however, have much higher asset limits or they don’t count assets at all when determining eligibility.
The SNAP pre-screening tool at www.snap-step1.usda.gov/fns can help seniors, and their family members, figure out if they qualify.
To apply, seniors or an authorized representative will need to fill out a state application form, which can be done at the local SNAP office or it can be mailed or faxed in, or in many states it can be completed online.
If eligible, benefits will be provided on a plastic card that’s used like a debit card and accepted at most grocery stores.
Depending on the person’s financial situation, the amount of SNAP a beneficiary may be eligible for will range between $15 and $189 per month as an individual, or $15 to $347 for a family of two.
To learn more or apply, contact your local SNAP office -- call 1-800-221-5689 for contact information or visit www.fns.usda.gov/snap.
In addition to SNAP, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is another underused program that provides coupons that can be exchanged for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs.
This program is currently available in select counties in 43 states, seven Indian reservations, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to seniors, age 60 and older, with gross monthly household incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty line, which is currently below $1,800 for individuals, or $2,426 for a family of two. For more information visit www.fns.usda.gov/sfmnp or call 703-305-2746.
Seniors that are eligible for food assistance may also be eligible for a host of other programs that can help pay for medications, health care, utilities and more. To locate these programs, visit benefitscheckup.org, or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
Apple Pie readers help Julia fill in the blanks (September 21, 2016)
Cheap cell phone plans for seniors (September 21, 2016)
Come And Take It starts Sept. 30 (September 21, 2016)
Disc water pitcher (September 21, 2016)
DRT chapter plans meeting, new member class (September 21, 2016)
Get ready to grill at show barn’s barbecue cook-off (September 21, 2016)
Old Town Day seeks vendors (September 21, 2016)
Poth VFD to serve up barbecued chicken (September 21, 2016)
Run and shine at Neon Sizzle 5K (September 21, 2016)
Spots open for Community Yard Sale (September 21, 2016)
St. Mary’s Fall Festival Sept. 25 (September 21, 2016)
Support FUMC youth at barbecue ‘fun’ raiser (September 21, 2016)
Teen MOPS plans upcoming meetings (September 21, 2016)
The root of many evils (September 21, 2016)
Uncovering local legends: The grave in the middle of the road (September 21, 2016)
URBAN-15 seeks dancers, drummers (September 21, 2016)
Chicago Cub yearbooks (September 14, 2016)
Enjoy Country Music Show Sept. 20 (September 14, 2016)
How to prevent falls at home (September 14, 2016)
Krawietz family reunion (September 14, 2016)
La Vernia EMS plans Car Show (September 14, 2016)
Labatt Club donates to library, children (September 14, 2016)
Low voices and high hopes (September 14, 2016)
Lutheran Church plans Sausage Dinner (September 14, 2016)
Medicaid covers mosquito repellent to fight Zika (September 14, 2016)
Metting family plans reunion (September 14, 2016)
Non-prescription drugs — the forgotten solution to rising health-care costs (September 14, 2016)
Relay For Life meeting is Sept. 15 (September 14, 2016)
Seguin Cowboy Gathering is Sept. 17 (September 14, 2016)
Smith Gas celebrates 88 years in business (September 14, 2016)
The life of Doris Billimek Moczygemba (September 14, 2016)
Trail ride donations surpass $1M (September 14, 2016)
Visit Remembering Our Fallen exhibit in Seguin (September 14, 2016)
Who will take care of you? (September 14, 2016)
A life shaped by hard work and hunting (September 7, 2016)
After-Dinner Chocolates (September 7, 2016)
Cajun music Sept. 10 (September 7, 2016)
Donate hearing aids, glasses, equipment (September 7, 2016)
Earn a certification in native landscaping (September 7, 2016)
Enjoy EquestFest 2016 (September 7, 2016)
Getting Engaged? How to spend wisely (September 7, 2016)
Mystery box (September 7, 2016)
Nominate a nonprofit for Literacy Award (September 7, 2016)
Old medicine chest dates back to 1821 (September 7, 2016)
Professional bull riding returns to Fredericksburg (September 7, 2016)
Register to run for tacos Oct. 1 (September 7, 2016)
Road Runners plan September outings (September 7, 2016)
Still time to buy tickets for Wild Game Dinner (September 7, 2016)
Take a tour of SS museum Sept. 17 (September 7, 2016)
Take the H-E-B Slim Down challenge (September 7, 2016)
Vote for top flick at Manhattan Short Film Festival (September 7, 2016)
Welcome to The Greenline, a 43-acre linear park (September 7, 2016)
‘Cupping’ long before Phelps did it (September 7, 2016)