Inflation affects seniors on fixed incomes most because it strains their wallets. According to the Social Security Administration, retirees receive an average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,657. Approximately $20,000 is the single largest source of income for most of the elderly in the country in one year. As a result, many senior citizens have difficulty making ends meet.
According to a 2021 report from the Congressional Research Service, 8.9% of seniors had incomes below the poverty threshold in 2019. Record-high inflation has eaten away seniors' incomes, which are already limited.
Contrary to what you might read online or in the media, the federal and state governments DO NOT offer free cash for personal expenses. "Free money for seniors from government" offers on websites or publications are often scams. Individuals and families in need can obtain federal benefits to become self-sufficient or lower their expenses. From medication to food to energy, many programs are available for seniors.
Programs That Offer Free Money For Seniors From Government
The following are some programs that save seniors a lot of money, so these can be considered free money for seniors from government:
1. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
High energy costs often burden low-income households. In 2020, home energy costs were estimated to average $117 per month, but prices vary by state, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Since February 2021, electricity prices have increased by 9%, according to the CPI report for February 2022.
LIHEAP is a federal program that assists low-income homeowners with their energy bills. Aside from that, it also helps households with food and other necessities. For costs not covered by LIHEAP, some states and cities have their own programs. In Chicago, for example, low-income residents now qualify for water assistance. Additionally, a household may be automatically eligible for benefits if it participates in another program, such as the SSI.
One-person households can earn up to $20,385 per year before taxes; this amount rises as the number of people in the area increases. However, LIHEAP may not cover your entire energy bill for a month, nor is it intended to do so. LIHEAP funds are granted to each state, so eligibility requirements vary. Assistance will be determined by various factors, including the household's location, income, energy needs, and size.
2. Tax Credits And Deductions
Tax deductions and credits are available to seniors aged 65 and older. The following are several methods by which seniors can reduce the amount of tax they are required to pay when filing their taxes:
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – Generally, the credit is refundable, meaning that if the credit exceeds your tax liability, you'll get a refund. People aged 65 and older can claim the EITC if they earned less than $57,414 during the 2021 tax year and had an investment income of less than $10,000.
- Credit For The Elderly Or The Disabled – Applicants who qualify for this tax credit will have their overall tax bill lowered by the IRS. Individuals 65 and above or those with taxable disability income who are retired on permanent and total disabilities are eligible for the credit.
- Standard Deduction For Seniors – Standard deductions reduce taxable income automatically, without itemizing deductions, when most taxpayers file their taxes. A higher standard deduction is available for taxpayers 65 years old or older at the end of the tax year.
- Medical Expenses – It may be more advantageous for seniors to itemize their deductions rather than take the standard deduction on their tax return if they have high medical expenses. Insurance premiums, Medicare premiums, and long-term care insurance premiums that exceed 7.5% of their income can be deducted. Some organizations also provided free medical supplies for senior citizens.
3. Nutrition Assistance Programs
The pandemic exacerbated the issue of food insecurity among seniors, as one in 14 seniors aged 60 and older reported hunger in 2019, according to a report on senior hunger in the U.S.
Also, according to research, many eligible individuals do not obtain nutrition assistance benefits, either because they don't realize they are eligible or because they are afraid of being judged. The following programs can assist senior citizens with their food costs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – A single household can receive $250 per month this year through SNAP. A person 60 years or older, or a person who is disabled, may be eligible for special SNAP deductions, such as the ability to deduct prescription drugs and nursing care expenses from your income if they are over $35 per month.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – Nutritional foods are distributed from the USDA through TEFAP directly to charities and soup kitchens. Healthy options are available, such as meat, milk, and cheese, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. Programs like this are free, but eligibility criteria vary by state.
- Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program – The USDA also runs this program to give seniors access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs. The program is open to low-income seniors aged 60 and older with household incomes not exceeding 185% of the federal poverty guidelines ($23,184 for one-person households). Senior centers and housing complexes are two of the most common locations where food can be picked up.
- Meals on Wheels – Local programs deliver daily meals to members aged 60 and older. Meal prices can range from free to full, depending on individual circumstances. Programs have their own eligibility requirements, such as doctor's or social worker's referrals or assessments of their need for meals. Additionally, daily checkups are also done by the organization to keep seniors independent and dignified.
4. Financial Help For Senior Health Care Costs
Seniors can face substantial financial burdens as a result of healthcare costs. According to Fidelity, an average retired couple aged 65 would need $300,000 in savings to cover their healthcare expenses in retirement, even if they have Medicare. Healthcare costs can be covered by Medicare through the following programs:
- Extra Help Program – Prescription drugs can be affordable with the help of Medicare's Extra Help Program. For married couples, the income limit is $27,465 ($20,385 for individuals), and the resources limit is $15,510 for individuals ($30,950 for couples). Under the program, brand-name and generic prescription drugs covered by Medicare are capped at $3.95 and $9.85, respectively.
- Medicare Savings Program – Those who cannot afford their Medicare premiums can receive assistance through this state program. The Medicare savings programs vary in income limits, what they help pay for, and their monthly income limits.
5. Housing Assistance Programs
The HUD provides a few options that seniors can avail to ensure they keep a roof over their heads in their final years. The following are a few pertinent programs:
- Housing Choice Voucher (formerly Section 8) – The Public Housing Agency provides financial assistance to senior citizens struggling to pay their rent. The housing choice voucher reduces the rent by a certain amount that landlords can redeem upon submission of the voucher to the relevant PHA. This benefit program is available through vouchers to eligible seniors.
- HUD Home Rehabilitation And Repair Grants – It is difficult for seniors to take care of their homes while spending money on their health. A housing repair grant is a loan that HUD provides seniors to assist them with their housing repair needs to have a healthier and better living place.
6. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The maximum amount of SSI an individual can receive is $914, while the maximum amount a couple can receive is $1,371. SSI provides cash benefits to qualified individuals to cover essentials such as food, shelter, and clothing.
SSI benefits can be applied for over the telephone or in person at a local office by calling the Social Security Administration. Applications cannot be submitted online by people over 65. Despite this, the effort is well worth it.
The quality of life for seniors can be improved, and they can be healthier. Fortunately, senior citizens can find assistance from government agencies and non-profit organizations.
It is important to find out where this assistance is available by doing simple research. To qualify, you will need to provide accurate and valid information, and you will need to show you deeply need the assistance.