FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 1, 2013

Contact: Chaunda Ball, (917) 859-0029, cball@aarp.org

AARP Releases New Policy Recommendations to Help the 85% Likely Eligible Older Adults on Long Island Who are Not Receiving Food Assistance

 

85% of Potentially Eligible Adults 60+ in Long Island Not Receiving SNAP Benefit; LI Among Highest Non-Participation Rate in State; Seniors Face Multiple Barriers to Accessing Help

 

Melville, NY – AARP New York joined with a group of hunger and aging advocates, including the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, the Food Research and Action Center, Long Island Cares, and Island Harvest, in Melville today to release new recommendations aimed at helping the estimated 85 percent of older adults in Long Island, who may be eligible but are not receiving nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP, and formerly called Food Stamps).

Long Island has one of the highest SNAP non-participation rates in the state.  In Nassau and Suffolk Counties, as many as 82,000 people over 60 may be eligible, but not receiving the benefit, based on an AARP analysis.

Despite persistent hunger in the country, today is also the day in which all SNAP recipients will see their benefits cut as a result of the expiration of a temporary 2009 federal stimulus measure which increased benefits.

The recommend policy changes outlined in the association’s second white paper on older adult hunger, titled “Hunger Among Older Adults: Breaking Down the Barriers,” encourage New York State to simplify and streamline the SNAP application process for those over 60, use data-driven strategies to identify potentially eligible individuals, and increase the benefit amount by implementing a standard medical deduction for seniors with out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Statewide, nearly 500,000 New Yorkers age 60+ receive SNAP benefits, which averages $170 per month for adults age 60 and over, allowing them to maintain good health and nutrition, yet according to census data, an additional half million older New Yorkers could potentially be eligible.

While SNAP is identified as one of the most effective ways to reduce hunger, increasing participation in the benefit can also be a boost to local economies.  Every $5 used in SNAP benefits adds $9 to the economy.

“Bringing an end to hunger among people age 50 and over in Long Island and in New York State is one of the top priorities for AARP New York and the AARP Foundation,” said Will Stoner, Associate State Director for AARP New York.  “By implementing these recommendations to increase SNAP participation, we can help the many people 50 and older who face unimaginable choices like paying for groceries or keeping the lights on.  We thank Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, Food Research and Action Council, and all of the groups who joined us today to help shine a light on older adult hunger in Long Island.”

“With the number of seniors on Long Island expected to continue to grow significantly, it is vital that eligible residents enroll in SNAP, both to ensure that they have access to healthy food and to ease the high cost of living on Long Island,” said Gwen O’Shea, President/CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island. “HWCLI is concerned about the challenges that seniors experience in accessing SNAP benefits, as well as the recent cuts to SNAP benefits, which will lead to greater hunger among seniors and SNAP recipients of all ages. While an $11 per month cut might not seem like a lot to some Long Islanders, for a senior struggling to pay for heat, food and prescription drugs, it can make a big difference. Health and Welfare Council of Long Island is proud to partner with AARP on the Long Island Anti-Hunger Initiative, a collaborative approach to educating seniors and other Long Islanders about SNAP and other benefits available to them.”

“Too many seniors on Long Island and across the country go hungry,” said Ellen Vollinger, Legal/Food Stamp Director of the Food Research and Action Center.  “The work that AARP NY is doing with its partners to connect eligible elderly people with SNAP food benefits can make a major difference in promoting their health, independence and dignity.  That work also brings federal dollars into Long Island supermarkets and boosts the local economy. Each dollar of federal SNAP benefits generates $1.79 in economic activity.  Unfortunately, the national SNAP benefit cuts taking effect today will mean fewer food dollars for seniors and others.  And proposed SNAP cuts pending in the Farm Bill would undercut the nutrition safety net further.  It is vital that the Congress and White House reject SNAP cuts and instead strengthen SNAP in moving toward the goal of ending hunger in the US.”

“Access to healthy food is vitally important in the fight against hunger among older New Yorkers,” said Linda Bopp, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions New York.  “SNAP has a positive impact on the health and well-being of this vulnerable population, and we stand by AARP in their efforts to alleviate hunger for all older adults.”

On Long Island, approximately 285,000 residents struggle with food insecurity.  The number of Americans age 50 and older facing the risk of hunger increased by nearly 80 percent between 2001 and 2009, totaling nearly 9 million, according to the AARP Foundation.  In New York State, nearly one in four adults over the age of 60 and living at home is considered nutritionally at risk.

Some of the barriers preventing higher participation in SNAP among older New Yorkers are the stigma associated with accepting assistance, a fear of the application process, and lack of awareness of the benefit and its eligibility requirements.

The recommendations in the report were formed through discussions among hunger stakeholders attending a year-long series of regional roundtables held around the state, which culminated in a statewide summit in Albany in 2012 convened by AARP New York in partnership with Hunger Solutions New York and with the support of the AARP Foundation.

Recommendations from a 2011 AARP New York and AARP Foundation white paper were successfully implemented, including changing the official name of federal food assistance from Food Stamps to SNAP, eliminating the finger imaging requirement for applicants, and increasing SNAP outreach funding by $1 million.

The full report can be found here.

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.

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