A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

With rising inflation causing hardship for fixed-income Kentuckians, benefits assistance can help

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

As inflation drives up the cost of living, Kentuckians on fixed incomes are especially vulnerable.

More than 2,000 federal, state and local benefits are available for older adults and people with disabilities, which can be found online at benefitscheckup.org, along with help with applications and eligibility requirements.

Aisha Williams, senior director of economic security and benefits for the National Council on Aging, said the site can show people how to reduce their spending on internet bills, food, utilities and health care, but they first have to take steps to sign up.

Forty percent of older Americans rely solely on Social Security for retirement income, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. (Image from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“Every little bit counts when you’re trying to figure out, are you going to be able to afford medication? Or are you going to be affording food or your rent that month?” Williams emphasized.

She noted people can go in-person to the Green River Area Development District in Owensboro, or Legal Aid of the Bluegrass locations in Ashland, Covington, Lexington or Morehead to get help figuring out which programs they qualify for, and streamline the application process.

Williams also suggested calling the national helpline at 800-794-6559, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET, to get started by phone with a benefits enrollment specialist.

Sarah Ackerman, benefits enrollment center coordinator for the Green River Area Development District in Owensboro, said she recently helped a low-income Ohio County resident save on his internet and grocery bills.

“We completed a benefits checkup screening, and it showed information on the Affordable Connectivity program and Lifeline, and commodity boxes, which are the monthly food boxes,” Ackerman outlined.

Williams pointed out the past few years of the pandemic and economic uncertainty have led a growing number of older adults who previously did not need to supplement their monthly budget searching for options to make ends meet.

“Older adults — working, retired, otherwise — are affected by swings in the economy,” Williams observed. “It may be the case that perhaps you weren’t aware of what might be available to you, because you hadn’t been in that situation before.”

According to the latest America’s Health Rankings report, 12% of Kentuckians over age 65 live in poverty, and the number jumps to 19% for Black and Hispanic residents.

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