Feb 16, 2023
Contact: Cynthia Tarail
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Easthampton Council on Aging urges older residents come in for a “benefits check-up”
Easthampton, MA - Older residents living on a small, fixed income may be having trouble paying for groceries, medicine, housing, and other living costs, particularly with the higher costs of basic necessities such as utility rates. Council on Aging outreach workers can help them find and enroll in benefits programs that save them money.
According to the Elder Index, from the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, as of November 2021, before energy costs rose as much as they have this winter, an older couple with a mortgage in poor health needed $4,571 or in excellent health $3,983 per month, for basic needs. A single homeowner with no mortgage, in poor health, needed $2,394, and a single older adult renter in good health needed $2,345. Many Easthampton seniors do not have that level of income.
“When you have to choose between food, medicine, and utility bills–not to mention helping other family members afford their expenses, which we see all the time–you can get behind. Don’t hesitate to get a benefits check up with your senior center as soon as you are living on a fixed income,” said Cynthia Tarail, Easthampton Council on Aging Director. State Rep. Dan Carey concurred. “It is so important for folks to be proactive about benefits programs so they don’t miss out on potential assistance opportunities.”
One opportunity is Eversource’s “New Start,” described on their website as a “monthly payment plan based on the average of your regular monthly bill. When you make your New Start monthly payment, a portion of your total balance at the time of enrollment will be eliminated, or "forgiven,” reducing the amount you owe.” Applicants must show proof they are income-eligible and typically have applied for other benefits, and they must continue to pay a specified amount on time. ECOA Outreach worker Ashley Brown said that senior centers can help with both the application and other benefits that can support a household’s overall budget. “We don’t want folks to get discouraged when their circumstances change.”
State Sen. John Velis said that, "As the winter continues, my office continues to hear from seniors in our community who are struggling with bills and it is really critical that folks are aware that assistance is available to them.” Like senior centers, the Senator’s office connects residents with resources, especially those with complex situations. “I would encourage all older residents to utilize the COA's benefits check-up program.”
“We see seniors who are doing just what society is asking of them—trying to age in place,” said Tarail. “They worked hard all their lives, and they earned these benefits. Too many are coming to us suffering in place with debt that could conceivably have been less had they come sooner.”
For more information, call the Easthampton COA at 413-527-6151, visit their Outreach page at https://easthamptonma.gov/571/Outreach-Services, or contact your local council on aging.