An AARP Foundation pilot project designed to help people learn what public benefits they qualify for is leading to the discovery that there is more need for such assistance than people might think.
See Also: What is the SNAP Benefit?
The AARP Foundation’s Benefits QuickLink is a pilot project underway in several states, including New Mexico, designed to help people determine the public programs, such as food stamps (now called SNAP), energy assistance, or Medicaid services that they might qualify for. The project is in its second year in New Mexico and is currently tied to the AARP Foundation Tax Aide Program.
AARP volunteers talked with people waiting to have their taxes done to see if they’d be interested in visiting the Benefits QuickLink site to see what benefits they might be eligible for.
“I don’t think you realize the need that exists in the community until you visit with some of these folks,” said Adolphus “Dolph” Bunkley. “You realize there is a real need for a social safety net and for health insurance – there’s a need for many things.”
“While I had some people say they didn’t need assistance, almost everyone I spoke to said they knew someone that did,” Bunkley said.
He said that people either don’t know that certain benefits exist or they don’t know how to navigate the system to sign-up for the benefits.
One thing that is especially helpful with the Benefits QuickLink site is when a person determines what programs an individual qualifies for, the necessary forms to sign up for those programs can be printed out immediately.
“Then all they have to do is fill them out and turn them in,” Bunkley said.
Ruth Ledesma, another AARP volunteer helping with the program, said, “I found a lot of the people I talked with, the people who seemed to be significantly in need, were the ones who didn’t think they were eligible for any help because they weren’t – to their way of thinking – that bad off, when in fact they did qualify for assistance.”
“I had one gentleman, a veteran, who was eligible for all kinds of things. There were veterans’ benefits, tax rebates, weatherizing projects. He knew about food stamps. But because he had never heard of the programs, it never crossed his mind to sign up for several programs for which he was eligible,” Ledesma said.
“When this gentlemen left, you could actually see that his step was a little lighter. People use the term ‘downtrodden’ to describe someone down on his luck. You can see that in a person’s posture. When you give them hope, you can see the change – what it means to give a person a little hope, to lighten their burden somewhat,” she said.
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