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PNS Daily Newscast - September 25, 2020 


Democrats reported to be preparing a smaller pandemic relief package; vote-by-mail awaits a court decision in Montana.


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Senators respond to President Donald Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. And, former military and national security officials endorse Joe Biden.

They Might Not Know It, But Poverty Aid Available for ND Seniors

Research shows seniors who receive SNAP food-assistance benefits are 23% less likely to enter a nursing home than non-participants. (Adobe Stock)
Research shows seniors who receive SNAP food-assistance benefits are 23% less likely to enter a nursing home than non-participants. (Adobe Stock)
July 22, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Low-income, older adults struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic may be unaware of federal benefit programs that could help them pay for food, rent, utilities and more. An online tool from the National Council on Aging can help people determine if they're eligible.

In North Dakota, nearly 10% of adults 65 and older live in poverty - and that was before the pandemic. Chief customer officer at the National Council on Aging Josh Hodges said funds for programs such as SNAP and home energy assistance are going unused.

"These benefits are really tied to an individual's income, but so many older adults do quality for and just aren't even aware that these benefits are out there," Hodges said. "And I think that really is part of the biggest issue, is just awareness."

People can visit benefitscheckup.org to see which programs they may quality for. Those who aren't internet-savvy can ask a friend or relative to help if their local library or senior center isn't open.

Hodges said an estimated $30 billion in public and private benefits go unclaimed every year because people either don't know about them or can't navigate the application process.

Research has shown that many older adults in difficult financial straits make trade-offs that affect their health, such as skipping meals or cutting medication doses in half. Hodges said assistance is available for people who need help paying their Medicare Part B premiums.

Michele Gee, director of the Economic Assistance Division at the North Dakota Department of Human Services, said while they did see an uptick in demand for certain programs in the spring, things have leveled off.

But she said help still is available.

"Now, we are trending at more of the normal level," Gee said. "But we certainly always encourage anybody in need to seek out assistance through their human service zones."

Gee said nearly 40% of SNAP recipients in North Dakota are elderly or have a disability.

Meanwhile, the Council warns that coronavirus scammers continue to target older Americans, including using robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to checks from the government or from false COVID-19 relief funds.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND