Many of our nation’s seniors live on fixed incomes and struggle to afford everyday expenses. Sadly, a large number of these individuals are also disabled. There are several existing programs that support the most vulnerable among us, but the number of agencies, applications, reporting requirements and additional obstacles they must tackle to access these funds make it unnecessarily difficult for them to receive the benefits they desperately need and deserve.
I recently introduced H.R. 4521, SNAP Simplification for the Elderly Act, as one of the focal points for my “Let’s Feed America Campaign.” The bill would eliminate burdensome red tape and make it easier for the low-income elderly and disabled individuals to receive SNAP, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) benefits.
Hunger and food insecurity is a huge problem in America. Nearly 41 million Americans struggle to put food on the table each day, including five million seniors. Because of their lack of income, many of our seniors are often faced with the frightening decision of whether to purchase food or medicine.
This is certainly the case in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which I represent, where one in every four citizens has received SNAP benefits at some point over the past 12 months, a rate which is nearly twice the national average. It is estimated that only 42 percent of eligible seniors are enrolled in SNAP. SSI and the MSP have similarly low rates among seniors and individuals with disabilities. This is unacceptable.
I care deeply about guaranteeing that all Americans have access to food, regardless of their income. That is why I introduced this bill.
The SNAP Simplification for the Elderly Act will build upon the success of the USDA’s Elderly Simplified Application Project by extending the SNAP recertification periods for households from 12 to 36 months if all adult household members are elderly, disabled or enrolled in Medicaid or the Medicare Savings Program.
It will also amend existing law to allow the Secretary of Agriculture and the Commissioner of Social Security (SSA) to administer Combined Application Projects (CAP) in at least 10 additional states, which will streamline application procedures for SSI and SNAP. Seventeen states currently participate in this program.
This legislation will also create “Social Security Administration Senior Centers” as pilot projects in 10 SSA field offices that will work to streamline the application and delivery processes of federal, state and local programs that serve low-income elderly or disabled individuals.
I believe it is imperative that we fully support programs that protect the nation’s most vulnerable, and ensure that they can easily access them in their time of need. The SNAP Simplification for the Elderly Act will make great strides in that direction.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.