The AARP in Georgia has helped thousands of seniors get food assistance. Last year, 800 seniors benefited from AARP’s food stamp program. Nearly two-thirds of older Georgia residents are eligible for food stamps, but are not enrolled in a federal program, according to AARP. Through the AARP’s charity, AARP Foundation, the organization wants to finally fix the problem. For that reason, AARP Georgia is holding a food stamp application drive this week in Hall County.
Representatives are offering to help seniors fill out the forms to get into the federally funded programs. Ed Van Herik is the spokesman for the AARP Foundation. He said that he can go a long way in helping people with fixes incomes who are trying to handle multiple needs.
”For people who are really struggling they find themselves in a position where are choosing either to pay for a prescription or food…to pay for utilities or food,” he said. “Food stamps are a direct benefit that ends up on the table.”
There are multiple reasons why senior citizens aren’t applying for federal funding already, even when they do quality. Senior citizens may have a long history of being independent. This presents a problem when they need to ask for help for one of the most basic human needs: food. In addition, the elderly have many misconceptions about what you need to qualify for a food stamp program and how it works.
There has been an increasing amount of seniors who are suffering because of the economic conditions. The AARP Foundation has been working since September to sign up Georgians for the program. The program was excited to learn that it had signed up 800 in 2011. Most of that work has been central to the Atlanta area but is branching out around Georgia to reach out to more seniors around the state.
Merry Howard is the director of the Hall County-Gainesville Senior Life Center, said there is a need in Hall County for the kind of work the AARP Foundation has started.
”I’m glad they are taking the initiative,” said Howard. “Hunger for older adults can be really high if they are living by themselves.”
An intern with the Senior Life Center had created a similar program with clients before. However, many of the center’s clients live with family members, there were fewer benefits that were available for them and paperwork was more difficult to complete. Many senior citizens who are living alone could benefit from food stamps, but they are actually not proud to come forward, according to Howard.
The stigma of food stamps has eased because of technology and the invention of the EBT card. Food stamp clients in Georgia no longer need to pay with an actual “stamp,” rather it’s all done electronically.
”The system is designed so no one knows if you receive this kind of assistance,” Herik said. “It’s not noticeable to anyone.”
With the help from AARP, senior citizens are able to figure out the forms, complete the paperwork and provide all of the documents necessary to prove their financial situation and the situation of their dependents or others who live in their households. This information has become increasingly important in weeding out fraudulent applicants for the food stamp program.