7 Programs That Help Struggling Retirees With the Cost of Living

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According to the US Census Bureau, the poverty rate among Americans age 65 and older increased from 8.9% in 2020 to 10.3% in 2021. It was the only age group to see a statistically significant increase during that period.

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Millions of older Americans are eligible for aid programs – but may not be taking advantage of them. Before you spend money you don’t need, here are several programs to help you manage your cost of living as a senior.

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1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
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What it does: The SNAP program is the largest anti-hunger program in the United States. It is a federal program but is run at the state level. It is designed to supplement the food budgets of low-income families, helping those facing hunger insecurities buy healthier meals.

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What it’s for: Generally, to qualify for SNAP, you need to meet your state’s income and asset requirements. There are special rules for those the program considers elderly – ie 60 years of age or older. To qualify, you must submit an application through your state’s Snap office.

AARP estimates that 16 million adults 50 and older who may be eligible for SNAP benefits are not using them. This includes more than 3 million who may be eligible for more than $200 per month in SNAP benefits.

2. Commodity Complementary Food Program
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What it does: The US Department of Agriculture sends food and administrative funds to participating states and Indian tribal organizations. That meal is then distributed to eligible individuals, and seniors can apply through their state to participate.

Who it’s for: Designed for low-income seniors who are at least 60 years old, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program aims to help participants supplement their diets. The food packages that are delivered offer nutritious foods that may otherwise be missing from the diets of older Americans.

3. Medicare Savings Program
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What it does: There are four different Medicare Savings Programs, all run at the state level. Most pay for Medicare Part A or Part B premiums, but one also helps with Medicare deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments.

Who it’s for: Generally, to qualify for any of the four programs, one must have an income and other financial resources below certain limits, outlined on the Medicare program’s “Medicare Savings Programs” webpage. . However, these limits increase each year, and some states have some exceptions to the limit. In fact, more than 3 million seniors who are 65 or older are eligible for the Medicare Savings Program but haven’t enrolled, according to Kaiser Health News.

4. Additional Support
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What it does: As part of the Medicare program, Extra Assistance is designed to help eligible senior citizens pay their Medicare Part D premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. Medicare Part D is the prescription drug coverage component of Medicare. Seniors who need help paying their drug costs can benefit from additional support.

Who it’s for: Additional assistance is for senior citizens who meet income and resource limits. In general, if you’re on Medicare and qualify for full Medicaid coverage, get help from your state to cover your Medicare Part B premiums, or get Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you can get additional assistance. can qualify for. Depending on the situation, you may be automatically eligible. However, some eligible seniors may need to apply. If you don’t automatically receive additional help, you can apply through the Social Security Administration.

5. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
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What it does: LIHEAP is designed to help low-income families and senior citizens with energy costs stay warm in winter and cool in summer. Unsafe heating and cooling practices can cause health problems, and LIHEAP distributes money that can be used to cover energy costs through state and local programs.

Who it’s for: This program isn’t exclusively for seniors, but many lower-income senior citizens can benefit. Seniors are especially vulnerable to health issues that come from overheating, and have an increased sensitivity to cold. Colds can be especially problematic for people with diabetes, a condition that affects 15.9 million seniors.

6. Lifeline
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What it does: Phones (including mobile) and broadband Internet service are increasingly important for staying connected. Lifeline is administered by the federal government in each state and is designed to provide discounted services to low-income consumers.

Who it’s for: People who meet income requirements can go through qualified providers to receive communication services at a discount. If you qualify for SNAP benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, or certain other programs, you also qualify for LifeLine.

7. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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What it does: This federal program is administered by the Social Security Administration, but it is not funded by Social Security tax dollars. Instead, it sends monthly payments using ordinary tax revenue. The funds are intended to help low-income and disabled individuals pay for basic needs. The SSI program is available to people who are on Social Security, although your Social Security benefits can affect how much you receive from SSI.

Who it is for: People aged 65 and above who meet the income and resource requirements can apply for SSI. It is also available to young people who are blind or disabled. These additional SSI payments can help you with living expenses if you are struggling. You can apply through the Social Security Administration.

Are you eligible for assistance?
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Don’t feel that you don’t deserve help. The millions of older adults who qualify are not using these programs to their advantage. Use the National Council on Aging’s free BenefitsCheckup tool to find out what benefits are available to you. You can also contact your regional agency on Aging to learn about programs and to apply for benefits.

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