An estimated 3.6 million people aged 65 and over live in poverty in the United States. Most of these people could be receiving food assistance. But only 34 percent of eligible older Americans get that food assistance. That leaves millions of food-aid dollars untouched. The most common reason? People don’t realize they’re eligible!
Help someone to sign up for food assistance programs like SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program). By helping a friend or neighbor access these benefits, you’ll help to improve their health – by easing the anxiety that comes with financial stress and helping them get the money they need to buy food.
To help someone apply for SNAP, visit AARP benefits QuickLINK, a webpage sponsored by the AARP Foundation. This FREE, confidential online tool helps people determine if they are eligible for programs that help cover the costs for groceries, medicine, utilities and health care without ever entering a bank account or Social Security number. The Food benefits section of the website focuses just on food assistance, and provides all the forms and information you need to apply for SNAP in your state. Note: The benefits QuickLINK website is in English but you can also print out Spanish copies of most of the SNAP applications from the website.
Eligible for SNAP? If someone has monthly income of around $1,000/month or less, and/or struggles to make ends meet, there is a chance they might be eligible.
How it Works
STEP 1: START THE CONVERSATION
Please be sensitive if you are initiating the conversation with friends and neighbors.
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.
Please emphasize that AARP believes that people who are eligible for these programs should enroll in them. Remind them that they (and/or their spouse) 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. Some suggestions to open the conversation may include:
- “I saw an ad from AARP saying they have resources to help us get through this tough economy – for example, helping to pay for food. Have you ever heard of this?”
- “I don’t know if you’re interested, but there’s a program that my mother-in- law used to get money to buy groceries. It really helped us too, because we were helping to cover those costs out of our own pocket.”
You can also help sharing a copy of “Your Guide to Public Benefits in Your State.” To access the guide and print it out, visit www.aarp.org/quicklink, click on “Help in my State” tab and select your state.
STEP 2: LOG ON TO AARP BENEFITS QUICKLINK TO SCREEN SOMEONE FOR SNAP
If you think a person is eligible for SNAP and he or she doesn’t want to complete the questionnaire online, use the state application form.
Offer to help your friend use the Benefits QuickLINK website. The site will guide you through a short list of questions, and will compare answers given 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 information needed, which does include some basic information about income and expenses.
- Log on to a computer and go to www.aarp.org/snap.
- Click on your state, or select your state from the drop-down box.
Note: Every state has different eligibility requirements and processes to apply.
STEP 3: BEGIN ELIGIBILITY SCREENING
On the right hand side of the screen, under “Web Resources,” click on “Find Out If You’re Eligible.”
STEP 4: CONTINUE ELIGIBILITY SCREENING
It’s easy to launch the screening. Click on the “Click Here” button to start. Then just ask your friend to answer the fifteen questions and fill in the answers. Remember, you don’t need to enter ANY sensitive information – like a name, Social Security number or bank account number. No one will ever know who is completing the survey. It’s private and secure!
STEP 5: VIEW RESULTS
Once you’ve completed all of the questions, the final screen will determine whether your friend may be eligible or not.
SNAP/Food Stamps provide the average senior participant with $70 each month toward groceries.
If the person you are helping to screen may be eligible for food benefits, the results page will look like this with a link to information specific to the state. Click on the link.
The final screen shows local contact information, application forms, and items needed to apply.
Once you return to the screen with all state-specific application information, view the right hand side to see whether the person can apply online or will need to print an application to send to the appropriate agency.
In some states, other benefits can be applied for at the same time when you complete the SNAP application.
STEP 6: SUBMIT SNAP APPLICATION
Determining eligibility is only the first step. Now you can help your friend complete the SNAP application process. In this section, 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:
Determine if you are the right person to help here. Your friend may also want to ask a relative, friend or case worker to help them complete this application.
- Offer to call the local department of social services to set up an appointment.
- If the program accepts applications over the phone, give your friend that information.
- Drive them to an application appointment, or help to arrange transportation.
- Find the local office that provides food benefits in your area.
- Simplify mailing of the application by addressing and stamping envelopes.
STEP 7: INSPIRE OTHERS ON CREATETHEGOOD.ORG!
KEEP UP THE GOOD!
Remember, whether you’ve got five minutes, five hours or five days, you can make a positive impact in your community. And if you have more time, consider organizing another service activity, finding local opportunities and posting your events at www.CreateTheGood.org.
Benefits QuickLINK – www.aarp.org/quicklink
SNAP Page on Benefits QuickLINK – www.aarp.org/snap
SNAP information in Spanish – http://www.fns.usda.gov/es
Finding relief in tough times – www.aarp.org/money/low-income-assistance/real_relief_aarp/
Benefits for raising other people’s children – www.aarp.org/relationships/grandparenting/
Find a food pantry – www.feedingamerica.org
SAMPLE SNAP FLYER