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Rising inflation has exacerbated an existing problem for millions of older Americans: they don’t have enough to live comfortably in retirement.
Without enough savings, and an average Social Security check of just over $1,500 per month, many retirees are struggling to make ends meet.
The good news is that there are thousands of resources that can provide relief to cash-strapped retirees.
Here are some of them
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Experts say that many older adults do not take advantage of all the nutritional assistance available to them. A 2015 study, for example, found that less than half of eligible seniors participated in SNAP.
“There is usually a lot of misunderstanding about the program and a lot of stigma, and unfortunately that prevents people from seeking help,” said Josh Prota, vice president of the nonprofit MAZON: Jewish Response to Hunger.
However, additional SNAP funds can be very beneficial for fixed-income retirees. The maximum monthly benefit for a family of one is $250. Grocery stores, online retailers, and farmers’ markets accept the money.
SNAP has rules about how much assets you can own and earn income for assistance, and it calculates Social Security checks. However, some expenses can be deducted, including rent and childcare costs, and experts say anyone who doubts they might qualify should apply.
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The USDA also has a Commodity Supplemental Nutrition Program, under which certain low-income people over 60 are entitled to a monthly food parcel containing fruits, vegetables, cheese, and more.
Meanwhile, retirees who are covered by Medicaid may qualify for free food through Mom’s Meals food delivery company. Some Medicare Advantage health plans also offer meal benefits under the program for people who have recently been discharged from the hospital or have chronic illnesses.
Meals are usually delivered every two to three weeks and include dishes such as Salisbury steak, pasta, meatballs, and sweet and sour chicken. People can tell the program about any allergies and accommodate diets suitable for vegetarians as well as people with certain conditions such as cancer or diabetes.
A Mom’s Meals spokesperson recommended that seniors who think they may be eligible for free meals contact a Medicaid or Medicare representative.
Health insurance and medication cost assistance
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Higher costs of health insurance and prescriptions can affect retiree incomes.
Some may be eligible for assistance with their monthly premiums under the Health Savings Program as reported by Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps patients access and pay for health care.
“If you qualify, your premiums, deductibles and co-payments will be covered, which would be a huge financial benefit for anyone,” Donovan said.
In addition, those enrolled in Medicare Part D, which covers prescriptions, must check to see if they qualify for additional assistance. This program can reduce your medication costs. Donovan said the benefit could be worth more than $5,000 a year.
There are also a number of charities that help seniors with their health care costs. For example, at Copays.org, you can request funds to be used for co-payments, premiums, deductions, and over-the-counter medications.
The National Patient Advocate Foundation has a directory of financial resources where you can find local help with everything from dental care to end-of-life services.
Although you must be on a very low income to qualify, some retirees will qualify for the Supplemental Security Income Program, a means-tested program for people over 65 or with disabilities.
In December 2021, more than 2.5 million people received both Social Security and the supplemental payment, which can be as high as $841 per month per person. You can apply through the Social Security Administration website or by calling 1-800-325-0778.
For further assistance, the National Council on Aging has a Benefit Check website where you can discover over 2,000 resources available for seniors struggling through a ZIP code.
The council also has a guide called You Gave Now Save, which includes information on more generous benefits that help seniors with expenses such as the phone bill and property taxes.