NCOA, Partners Bring Senior Hunger to Congress
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NCOA, Partners Bring Senior Hunger to Congress

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On Sept. 20, NCOA joined Feeding America, AARP Foundation, and Maryland Food Bank in a Congressional briefing on senior hunger in America—spotlighting the nearly 4 million older adults who are now food insecure.

Lura Barber, senior policy analyst for NCOA's National Center for Benefits Outreach & Enrollment, shared the story of Marge and Frank, an older couple from Montana who contacted one of NCOA’s grantees for help in choosing a Medicare Part D plan.

Marge & Frank's Story

Married for over 60 years, Marge and Frank had raised three children while running the gas station they owned. They had worked hard all their lives, but now were struggling to make ends meet in retirement.

As the counselor talked with Marge, it became clear that she and Frank were having a difficult time affording groceries on their income of just over $1,000 a month. After paying for utilities, transportation, and health care, there wasn’t much left for food.

The counselor found that the couple was eligible for the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) and Medicare Savings Programs to help make Medicare affordable, along with LIHEAP to help with utility costs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to pay for food.

Today, Marge and Frank are saving more than $100 per month on their medicines, and they're able to pay their home energy bills and buy adequate, nutritious food.

Reaching Seniors with SNAP

Only one in three eligible older adults is enrolled in SNAP, the lowest rate among all demographic groups. The reasons are well documented:

  • Seniors are less likely to know that they might qualify or how to apply.
  • They often hold misconceptions about the value of the benefit.
  • They find the application process confusing.

To address these issues, NCOA is working with grassroots organizations to find eligible seniors and help them enroll.

One example is a pilot project in Delaware being developed by NCOA and the AARP Foundation. It will work to ensure that seniors who use BenefitsCheckUp®, NCOA’s online benefits screening tool, automatically have an application pre-populated for both the Part D Low-Income Subsidy and the state’s SNAP program.

The project also will include a statewide publicity campaign and personalized, one-on-one assistance from trusted counselors at senior centers, food banks, and other community locations to target likely-eligible seniors and make sure they complete the application and know how to use their benefits. 

Protecting Funding in Congress

In Washington, DC, NCOA also continues to advocate for SNAP in Congress.

Although the Farm Bill is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, this will not have an impact on SNAP. With a permanent authorization, SNAP will continue as it is. The larger threats to the program are proposals in the House and Senate Farm Bill reauthorization measures that call for reducing SNAP resources and benefits.

Congress may finalize Farm Bill reauthorization or, more likely, adopt a short-term extension during a post-election session in November or December. Learn more about SNAP developments and what you can do from Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center

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