Get what you’re entitled to...

Low-income older New Yorkers are leaving billions of dollars of federal assistance on the table every year. It’s adding extra difficulty to lives that are already difficult, according to the abstract of a new study by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at The New School in New York City.

The study partly blames confusing and burdensome program application processes; stigma around receiving public assistance; and equitable technology necessary to access these benefits, with lack of access being the most significant barrier.

If you’ve gotten this far and are nodding at the part about confusing applications because you’ve been down that road already and gave up, call the Office for the Aging. You don’t have to do the paperwork alone. It’s our job to help cut through any confusion. Our contact information is at the end of every column.

Paperwork headaches and other obstacles do tend to arise in the three main programs for which many older Dutchess residents aren’t yet applying.

First among these three programs is the Medicare Savings Program (MSP), one of the state programs that assists eligible people with Medicare costs. MSPs are state programs that assist you with paying your Medicare Part A and B costs, especially Part B premiums.

Again, if you don’t know Part A from Part B, OFA is here for you. Our trained, non-sales-oriented counselors can help keep you on the path that’s best for you.

Next is SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which aims to reduce food insecurity. There are an estimated 200,000 older New Yorkers who are eligible for SNAP benefits averaging just under $2,000 a year, who haven’t applied. Although an emergency expansion of SNAP benefits recently expired with the winding down of the COVID public health emergency, the benefits continue at pre-pandemic levels and unused SNAP funds will continue to roll over from one month to the next if each month’s benefits are fully used up within the following 274 days (about nine months).

There’s also HEAP, the Home Energy Assistance Program. HEAP helps low-income households cover heating and energy costs, with a benefit paid directly to their energy suppliers. The Schwartz Center study found that over 1.2 million eligible New Yorkers, among them thousands of older adult households, have not applied for HEAP benefits. HEAP enrollees are also automatically enrolled in their gas and electric utilities’ discount programs.

We’ll conclude with what we’ve said in many columns: a big part of aging gracefully lies in accepting help gracefully. That’s doubly true when the help has been paid for with older adults’ own tax dollars.

 

Golden Living is prepared by the Dutchess County Office for the Aging, Todd N. Tancredi, director. Email him at ofa@dutchessny.gov.

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