Volunteers to Help Eligible Residents at SNAP Benefit Clinics in Western, MA
Seniors on fixed incomes often have to make difficult choices between heating their homes, paying for essential medications, or putting food on the table. Food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, can provide those Massachusetts residents 60+ and those with disabilities, a monthly benefit towards the costs of nutritious and healthy food.
A cornerstone of the nation’s nutritional safety net, SNAP helps prevent and alleviate food insecurity and hunger. SNAP is a federal program administered at the state level by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), and is an important resource that enables families to obtain healthy and affordable foods.
Additionally, the SNAP Medical Expense Deduction for Older Adults, available for those age 60+ and those with disabilities who qualify, helps provide those who need it most with additional funds for nutritious food.
The biggest challenge is spreading awareness of SNAP and the Medical Expense Deduction, and ensuring that eligible seniors and those with disabilities are taking advantage of the assistance. That’s why AARP Massachusetts, AARP Foundation, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, in support of the Drive to End Hunger, have teamed up to reach those who may be eligible but have not yet applied for SNAP benefits and/or the Medical Expense Deduction.
Across the country, older adult participation in the SNAP program represents the lowest rate among all demographic groups, with only 34 percent of older adults participating, among those eligible. Of the 990,537 seniors living in Massachusetts in 2012, some 11.63 percent face food insecurity.* That’s nearly 115,000 seniors who unnecessarily risk going hungry every day because they do not know they are eligible or how to apply. There is no gross monthly income limit for 60+ and disabled households, though special rules do apply to those 60+ and persons with disabilities when gross annual income above 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Also, there is no resource test if gross monthly income is below $1,945/month for a household of one, or $2,622 for a household of two (if monthly income exceeds these levels, individuals can take an asset and net income test). For the medical expense deduction, AARP volunteers and Food Bank staff provide additional support to make sure elders document their medical expenses correctly in order to achieve the highest deduction.
Because SNAP is so underutilized in Massachusetts, AARP Massachusetts, AARP Foundation, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, are coming together to host a series of clinics, designed to help enroll eligible older adults in the SNAP program and, if applicable, receive the Medical Expense Deduction.
Anyone age 60 and over, or anyone at any age who receives a disability benefit, may attend one of the following free and confidential SNAP clinics in Western Massachusetts, being held on the following Tuesdays:
Aug. 12, 2014 1-4 p.m. Springfield, MA
Mason Square Library
765 State Street
Aug. 26, 2014 1-4 p.m. Pittsfield, MA
Auditorium of Berkshire Athenaeum Library
1 Wendell Avenue
Sept. 9, 2014 1-4 p.m. Westfield, MA
Auditorium of Westfield Athenaeum Library
6 Elm Street
Sept. 23, 2014 1-4 p.m. North Adams, MA
Mary Spitzer Senior Center
116 Ashland Street
Sept. 30, 2014 1-4 p.m. Springfield, MA
Mason Square Library
765 State Street
While walk-ins are welcome, pre-registration is encouraged. For more information and to register, call AARP Massachusetts at 1-866-448-3621. Those found eligible for benefits will work with staff and volunteers to begin the application process.
* The State of Senior Hunger in America: An Annual Report