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Good Life: Seniors Benefits Counseling


Monday, November 26, 2018
Benefits counselors have helped 2,022 elders and people with disabilities access funds

Throughout your life you’ve paid your utility bills and taxes. Did you know a portion of those payments went to support benefits programs? Now that you’re on a fixed income, it only makes sense that since you paid your dues it’s time to get some of that money back to help you stretch your dollars and stay in the place you call home for as long as possible. Benefits counselors from LifePath can help you find and access these funds.

The Benefits Counseling program is free and helps homeowners and renters age 60 and older and younger adults with disabilities. Volunteer benefits counselors provide advice on funding sources and help fill out applications for home repair, fuel assistance, weatherization, disability modifications, food stamps, utility discounts, and emergency fuel. They also provide important information on tax rebates and foreclosure prevention. Benefits counselors serve all towns in Franklin County as well as Athol, Petersham, Phillipston, and Royalston in the North Quabbin.

Since the program began in 2010, benefits counselors have helped more and more people each year in many ways. For instance:

A woman and her husband (who had lost his job) were having trouble making ends meet. They thought that because they lived in an apartment with heat included in the rent that they did not qualify for fuel assistance. They learned that they not only qualified, but also, as low-income Eversource customers, they could get immediate help getting their electric bill reduced.

A man worried that qualifying for a loan rather than a grant would prove too challenging. As it turned out, the USDA low-interest loan he received to pay for a new roof cost him less than $30.00/month over a period of 7 years, an amount that was completely affordable.

A man who qualified for fuel assistance had no idea that he was also eligible for free help insulating his home, getting his furnace repaired, and replacing his outdated and inefficient refrigerator.

A woman who had completed a life estate, turning the family home over to her daughter, thought this meant that she would no longer qualify for low-income benefits. She was pleased to learn that, as long as she remains the sole occupant in the home, only her income is considered when making an application for fuel assistance, home repair, food stamps, or any other income-based benefit.

A woman who had been receiving $58/month in food stamps was gratified to learn that submitting receipts for medical care and supplies not reimbursed by insurance would nearly double her award.

Benefits counselors are trained volunteers, up-to-date on available benefits and how to access them. Benefits counselors also have knowledge and skills that make filing and following up on applications easy. Benefits counselors are NOT part of a reporting agency. They do not release any personal information to anyone except as required by benefits application agencies. The goal of the program and each volunteer is to help you navigate the system and obtain the help you need to improve your financial security and stay safe and warm (or cool!) in your own home.

Anytime is a great time to talk with a benefits counselor. You don’t know what kind of support might be available for you unless you ask. To reach Gretchen Smith and connect with a benefits counselor near you, contact the Information & Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath: 413-773-5555, 978-544-2259 or info@LifePathMA.org to start the referral process.

Would you like to become a benefits counselor? Trainings are ongoing. Contact Gretchen at the phone numbers or email address above.


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