Many people who are eligible for government programs that help cover the cost of basic necessities don’t know about the programs or don’t know how to apply for them. For instance, only about one third of eligible seniors are enrolled in SNAP/Food Stamps. And complicating the problem is that once people realize that there is help, navigating application processes can be challenging because each program’s application and eligibility requirements may be different.
AARP Benefits QuickLINK, a webpage sponsored by the AARP Foundation, has a FREE online tool that compares a user’s income, resources, ZIP code, and monthly expenses to the rules for 15 government programs that help cover the costs of groceries, utilities, health care and prescriptions. In 15 minutes or less, you can help a friend learn if s/he might be eligible, get an application, and find out where to apply PRIVATELY without ever entering a bank account or Social Security number.
If someone has monthly income of around $2,000/month or less, and/or struggles to make ends meet, there’s a chance they might be eligible.
The Basic Steps
STEP 1: START THE CONVERSATION
Personal finances can be a touchy subject. Many people who are in need, especially those who have recently hit hard times, may be uncomfortable discussing this. You can still approach your friends and neighbors, just be sensitive if you are the one initiating the conversation. Here are some suggestions for ways to start the conversation:
- “I saw an ad from AARP saying they and the AARP Foundation have resources to help us find ways to get through this tough economy – for example, government programs that help pay for food. Have you ever heard of this?”
- “I don’t know if you’re interested, but here’s a program that helped my mother-in-law save money on her prescriptions. It really helped us too, because we were helping to cover those costs out of our own pocket.”
STEP 2: LOG ON TO AARP BENEFITS QUICKLINK TO SCREEN FOR 15 GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS
Offer to help your friend use the Benefits QuickLINK website which will take you through a short list of questions. The website will compare your answers to the eligibility requirements in your state.
Explain that you will not ask for any identifying information, such as their name, Social Security number, or bank account number. Once you start the screening, you will find a list of some basic information about income and expenses.
Log on to a computer and go to www.aarp.org/quicklink.
Note: Every state has different eligibility requirements and processes to apply.
Click on the “Go” button in the box that asks “Looking for help? Start here!”
STEP 3: ENTER INFORMATION ON BENEFITS QUICKLINK
Explain that Benefits QuickLINK does not ask for Social Security numbers, bank account numbers or credit card numbers. Your friend won’t even have to enter his or her name, so no one will ever know who completed the screening! It’s private and secure.
Click on the “Go” button
Ask your friend the questions and fill in the answers.
STEP 4: GET THE BENEFITS QUICKLINK RESULTS REPORT
After completing the questionnaire, you’ll see a “Results Overview” page that lists the programs your friend may be eligible to receive.
Click on the name of each program for a fact sheet that describes the program, tells where to apply, and provides a link to the application.
STEP 5: APPLY FOR PROGRAMS
Identify programs for which your friend wants to apply.
Finding out about eligibility is only the first step. Now you need to ensure your friend has the help necessary to complete the application process.
This is the part when your friend will need to share personal identifying information such as Social Security number, name, copies of financial documents that prove income, bank account and/or citizenship.
Here are other ways you can help:
- Find the local AAA (Area Agency on Aging), www.eldercare.gov and/or a local State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) www.shiptalk.org and find out what support with applications those offices offer.
- Give your friend the information about how to apply for each program…via the web, over the phone, in person, if AAA or SHIP can help.
- Drive them to an application appointment, or help to arrange transportation.
- Find the local office that provides food benefits in your area at www.aarp.org/snap
- Simplify mailing of the application by addressing and stamping envelopes.
Your friends should apply for benefits themselves. If they need help applying, they should only ask someone they trust with their personal information.
STEP 6: ENCOURAGE YOUR FRIEND TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP
Many older adults often refuse help or hand-outs. Please emphasize that AARP believes that people who are eligible for these programs should enroll in them.
Remind them that have worked hard for decades, and that assistance programs are just one way the government recognizes that effort. Connecting people to programs or helping with the legwork to ensure that they get enrolled can put real money back in their pockets. For example:
- The Medicare Savings Programs (QMBI/SLMBI) can save up to $130 a month.
- SNAP/Food Stamps provide the average senior participant with $70 toward their grocery bill each month.
- Medicare Rx Extra Help can save an individual thousands of dollars a year.
STEP 7: INSPIRE OTHERS ON CREATETHEGOOD.ORG!
KEEP UP THE GOOD!
Visit www.CreateTheGood.org for a range of opportunities to use your life experience, skills and passions to benefit your community.
Medicare - www.medicare.gov
Social Security Administration - www.ssa.gov
Food Assistance-Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) - www.fns.usda.gov/fns
Benefits QuickLINK - www.aarp.org/quicklink
To view "Your Guide to Public Benefits in Your State,” click on the “Help in my State” tab and select the state to download a pdf.
Finding Relief in Tough Times - www.aarp.org/realrelief
Benefits for Raising Relatives’ Children - www.aarp.org/grandparents
AARP Caregiving Resources - www.aarp.org/family/caregiving/
Information to care for your loved one or to volunteer to help out a friend. Plus, caregivers can access our extensive toolkit filled with interactive features, such as expert videos, calculators, and worksheets.