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Grassroots effort will expand access to benefits programs for older adults

Arlington, VA, July 14, 2020 — Today, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well, announced partnerships with several leading local and national nonprofits to connect diverse older adults, their caregivers, and their families to benefits programs to help them pay for food, prescription drugs, and health services.

The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing a growing number of older adults, especially those who are Black and Latinx, into poverty. Even before the coronavirus, eligible older adults left $30 billion in federal and state benefits unused because they didn’t know about them or how to apply. These programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Medicare Savings Programs, Medicare Prescription Drug Low-Income Subsidy, and more.

Community-based organizations—who know and are best positioned to serve their local citizens—are crucial to helping eligible older adults understand and apply for these life-changing benefits.

“Community is everything, now more than ever,” said Vivian Nava-Schellinger, NCOA Director, Community Partnerships & Network Activation. “There are systemic and racial obstacles that keep nearly 3 million eligible older adults and people with disabilities from accessing benefits designed to help them pay for basic needs. These new partnerships will bring the message of benefits access to the communities that need them most.”

NCOA is proud to partner with the following nonprofits:

  • Alliance for African American Health of Central Texas, Austin, TX
  • The Borderland Rainbow Center, El Paso, TX
  • The Juanita C. Grant Foundation, Capital Heights, MD
  • Latinos for a Secure Retirement, Washington, DC
  • League of United Latin American Citizens, Washington, DC
  • San Ysidro Health, San Diego, CA

Together, NCOA and these partners will work to shift programming and resources to virtual formats to support social distancing, decrease social isolation, and think creatively about ways to communicate with older adults who are not digitally connected, but still need critical information to help them stay financially secure. NCOA also will center conversations around aging as an equity issue and ensure that our partnerships are reflective of the people we serve.

“The Juanita C. Grant Foundation is proud to enter into a partnership with NCOA working towards the common goal of improving the lives of older adults,” said S. Orlene Grant, Founder and President & CEO of The Juanita C. Grant Foundation. “In particular, we look forward to collaborating on community engagement and developing strategies with resources on the ground that will enhance economic security, disrupt social isolation of older adults increased by the pandemic, and address long-standing inequities experienced by older adults in communities of color.”

“The suffering our low-income seniors are experiencing during COVID-19 has worsened this crisis,” said Ana Melgoza, Vice President of External Affairs for San Ysidro Health. “When you see headlines stating income and race are major predictors of coronavirus infections, you realize economic relief is needed for our seniors to survive and live through this emergency pandemic. We are honored to work with NCOA in serving the disproportionate amount of grandparents raising grandchildren, seniors with chronic illnesses in overcrowded housing, and seniors with limited access to healthy foods.”

NCOA houses the Center for Benefits Access, funded by the U.S. Administration for Community Living, to support organizations in enrolling older adults and younger adults with disabilities with limited means into the benefits programs for which they are eligible. This week, July 13-17, 2020, NCOA is sponsoring Boost Your Budget™ Week to educate older adults about benefits programs and direct them to www.ncoa.org/Boost to take a free online screening to see if they’re eligible.

This project was supported, in part, by grant #90MINC0001-03-01 from the U.S. Administration on Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services, Washington DC 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well. Since 1950, our mission has not changed: Improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. NCOA empowers people with the best solutions to improve their own health and economic security—and we strengthen government programs that we all depend on as we age. Every year, millions of people use our signature programs BenefitsCheckUp®, My Medicare Matters®, and the Aging Mastery Program® to age well. By offering online tools and collaborating with a nationwide network of partners, NCOA is working to improve the lives of 40 million older adults by 2030. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.