Innovations in benefits access: A year of success
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Innovations in benefits access: A year of success

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See some of the characteristics of those helped in our innovations infographic.

In early 2012, Center for Benefits funded six Benefits Enrollment Centers (BECs) to implement significant innovations in benefits outreach and enrollment to assist economically vulnerable older Americans and younger adults with disabilities with enrolling in public benefits. Those innovations were in four categories defined by the Center:

  • Scaling up a successful local program to serve a whole state.
  • Improving troubleshooting and follow-up of benefits applications.
  • Increasing outreach and enrollment of isolated populations.
  • Using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a gateway to other benefits.

One year later…

Nearly 4,800 individuals have been helped through the Innovation Grants. The six grantees submitted close to 5,900 applications on behalf of these individuals, worth nearly $7.7 million in annual benefits. A quarter of those applications were for SNAP, a benefit that seniors are often most likely to be missing out on.

Of all the clients served by these grants:

  • 71% had income at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • 20% reported having a disability.
  • 64% were female.
  • 52% were of minority ethnic or racial background.
  • 30% were widows/widowers.
  • 15% lived in rural communities.
  • 8% had limited English proficiency.
  • 7% lived in multi-generational households.

What the grantees accomplished

The Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP, Atlanta) developed a follow-up protocol that integrated benefits assistance with their legal services, ensuring a smooth, in-house process to help clients move from application assistance to appeals (when necessary). Under this innovation, GLSP conducted 430 client follow-ups. These follow-ups resulted in an additional 305 applications (above the 603 applications submitted during the initial contacts) and $189,000 in additional benefits.

The South Alabama Regional Planning Commission (SARPC, Mobile) scaled their person-centered Benefits Enrollment Center model to other area agencies on aging (AAAs) in Alabama as they develop into Aging and Disability Resource Centers. SARPC engaged AAAs serving 52 counties across the state. These partners assisted 519 individuals (85% of clients under this project) outside of their traditional service area, who submitted 688 applications worth over $1 million in benefits.

Isabella Geriatric Center (New York City) developed a program to follow-up with their current clients who are enrolled in SNAP or about to recertify for the program to assess their eligibility for other programs. Isabella found that 70% of current SNAP enrollees were eligible but not enrolled in at least one other core benefit, while nearly 20% were missing out on multiple benefits.

The AARP of Pennsylvania and Benefits Data Trust (BDT, Philadelphia) built a data-driven outreach and application assistance model to help seniors access SNAP and other benefits. The model relied on multiple lists of potential eligibles for SNAP in Pittsburgh and southwest PA. Under this project, BDT demonstrated that SNAP is gateway to other benefits. Of nearly 1,800 individuals who appeared to be eligible for SNAP (enrolled or not enrolled), 60% were found eligible for other benefits and received help with an application. In contrast, only 33% of the 236 individuals who were not eligible for SNAP received help with another benefit.

AgeOptions (Oak Park, IL) and its two local partners secured an agreement to access data from the Illinois Department of Social Services (DSS, which administers SNAP, Medicaid, and MSPs) for the purposes of follow-up. Nearly 490 (61%) clients received follow up based on information obtained from the database. The most common forms of assistance around SNAP and Medicaid needed were troubleshooting and assistance perfecting applications after the initial submission (with over 60% of clients needing this type of assistance), while for clients receiving help on Medicare Savings Program applications, the most common type of assistance needed was help understanding the benefit.

Korean American Community Services (Chicago) implemented a volunteer program focused on providing culturally appropriate assistance to low-income linguistically isolated seniors in the city and suburbs of Chicago. Under this project, KACS was able to recruit eight volunteers who identified and provided application assistance to 215 linguistically isolated seniors. This assistance resulted in an average of $4,900 in benefits per client served.


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