Need Help Paying for Groceries?
AARP believes that no one – of any age – should go hungry. Yet the current economic downturn is forcing many older people to make the devastating choice to either pay for their medications or their groceries.
Fortunately, there are programs that can help.
There are an estimated 3.6 million people aged 65+ who live in poverty in the United States, according to a 2007 Census Bureau report, and millions of others who may qualify for Federal assistance programs like SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), which can alleviate much of the worry and anxiety associated with how to pay for groceries each month.
For older adults with limited incomes, especially those who live alone; food assistance programs can help improve overall health. The healthier people are, the more likely they will be able to take care of their daily needs and live independently.
Unfortunately, only 34% of eligible older Americans receive food assistance—leaving millions of dollars untouched. The most common reason people do not receive SNAP benefits is that they don’t realize they may be eligible.
As of July 1, 2009, there is no longer an asset limit for participants in SNAP. Previously, those aged 60+ could not have assets of more than $3,000 to qualify. In addition, the income guidelines have been increased. Nationally, the current income levels are $20,036 (gross annual income) for an individual; $26,955 for a couple and $40,793 for a family of four. Call the Mississippi Department of Human Services at 1-800-948-3050 to find out income levels in the state.
Benefit levels are determined based on total income, number in household, expenses (such as utilities) and other factors. Applicants can now conduct an interview with the Department of Human Services (DHS) over the phone to determine eligibility and benefit levels, instead of visiting a local DHS office in person. This change should make it easier for seniors and those without access to affordable transportation options to apply and receive benefits.
The old routine of standing in the grocery store line while people watch recipients tear food stamp coupons from a book is no more. Once a person’s application is approved, benefits automatically get loaded on a debit-style card which is accepted at most grocery stores and there are no hidden fees. The average monthly benefit for older Americans is $72 for individuals and $90 per household.
SNAP can be a life changing value for individuals, families and communities, but only if the millions of qualified individuals apply for the benefit.
In these tough economic times, AARP remains staunchly committed to connecting those in need with information and access to programs, which offer real relief and assistance in navigating their basic life needs. We encourage all older Americans and those who care for them to learn more about SNAP and apply if they’re eligible.
See if you or a loved one qualifies. Everyone has the opportunity to eat right, even when money is tight.
Find more information about how to apply for SNAP and receive information about other public benefits via AARP’s Benefits QuickLINK Web site.