FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2013
AARP Releases New Policy Recommendations to Help the Over 70% Likely Eligible Older Adults in Erie County and Western NY Who are Not Receiving Food Assistance
72% of Potentially Eligible Adults 60+ in the County and 74% in Western NY not Receiving SNAP Benefit; Older Adults Face Multiple Barriers to Accessing Help
BUFFALO, NY – AARP New York joined with the Erie County Executive Mark Polonczar, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County and Erie County Senior Services today to release new recommendations aimed at helping the estimated 72 percent of older adults in Erie County and 74 percent in Western New York 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).
In Erie County, as many as 42,000 people over 60 may be eligible, but not receiving the benefit, while across the Western New York region, the number may be as high as 77,000.
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.
Despite the large numbers of older adults who face food insecurity, it is estimated that 72 percent of those in Erie County who may be eligible for SNAP are not receiving the benefit, which averages $170 per month for adults age 60 and over.
Nearly 500,000 New Yorkers age 60+ receive SNAP benefits, allowing them to maintain good health and nutrition, yet according to census data, an additional 500,000 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 50+ New Yorkers is one of the top priorities for AARP New York and the AARP Foundation,” said Bruce Boissonnault, a member of AARP New York’s Executive Council. “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.”
Mark Polonczar, Erie County Executive said, “I call on New York State and the federal government to take action. The report proves there are individuals in our community who are going to bed hungry.”
In the Buffalo metro are, almost 14 percent of 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.
Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said, “It is absolutely essential that we fight to end hunger and eliminate poverty in Buffalo and across the state. Too many families in our community face the threat of hunger, and AARP has brought to light the troubling situation that low-income older New Yorkers are enduring each day. Here in Western New York, many of our neighbors are facing tough times. They are being forced to decide between paying to put food on their table, keep a roof over their heads or for necessary medications to keep them well. Our state needs to step up and provide seniors with the support they need to make ends meet.”
“United Way of Buffalo & Erie County supports programs that strengthen the health and well-being of older adults,” said Michael Weiner, President, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. “Many of these services include access to nutritious meals, because eating right helps protect against developing illness and disease, feeds the mind, and promotes overall quality of life for seniors.”
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 at www.aarp.org/ny.
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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.