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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Georgiana Bloom
georgiana.bloom@ncoa.org
Wednesday, February 25, 2009 202.609.6935

National Council on Aging Awards Grants to 10 Organizations to Help
Seniors, People with Disabilities Access Benefits

Washington, DC – The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is pleased to announce grants to 10 organizations nationwide for the purpose of finding and enrolling older people and younger adults with disabilities who have limited means into public benefits programs.

Awarded through NCOA’s National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment (www.CenterforBenefits.org ), the grants support the development of person-centered community-based systems for outreach and enrollment into public benefits through the creation of local and state Benefits Enrollment Centers (BECs). The BECs will reach and assist older people and younger adults with disabilities throughout the country, who may qualify for but are not yet enrolled in programs that help pay for prescription drugs, medical care, food or utilities.

“The economic downturn makes the work of the Benefits Enrollment Centers all the more critical,” said Wendy Zenker, NCOA vice president, Benefits Access Group. “At risk older people and younger adults with disabilities will now have access to assistance that will help them to apply for vital benefits that many people in need may not have known that they are eligible for.”

Under a cooperative funding agreement between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, the National Center for the Benefits Outreach and Enrollment was established in September 2008 to provide technical assistance to States, Area Agencies on Aging, and service providers to provide outreach and benefits enrollment assistance to older Americans and younger adults with disabilities of limited means. “The Benefits Enrollment Centers support AoA’s commitment to identify promising practices, especially those that use person-centered assistance and web-based decision-support tools. We believe these strategies offer a more complete and cost-effective way to enroll seniors and people with disabilities into the full array of state and federal benefits for which they are eligible,” said Edwin L. Walker, Acting Assistant Secretary for Aging.

Each Benefits Enrollment Center is receiving up to $100,000, to enroll older people and adults with disabilities into the following need-based programs: Medicare Part D Extra Help (Low-Income Subsidy); Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs); Medicaid; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the federal Food Stamp program; State Pharmacy Assistance Programs (where available); and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). “Need-based” benefits programs are those for which eligibility is based on financial need.

Benefits Enrollment Centers have an ultimate goal of creating community or state based, person-centered benefits enrollment systems that are as seamless as possible for consumers and their families and are sustainable beyond the period funded by these grants. They will help people who need one-on-one assistance with filling out benefits application forms, and use “person-centered” approaches, which encourages an individual to be screened and apply for multiple benefits at one time, rather than pursuing individual benefit programs one by one.

The following state and local organizations are the recipients of the grants (listed alphabetically by state):

South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, Mobile, AL
AgeOptions, Oak Park, IL
Green River Area Development District, Owensboro, KY
Maine SHIP, Office of Elderly Services, Augusta, ME
Washington County Commission on Aging, Inc., Hagerstown, MD
Elder Law of Michigan, Lansing, MI
Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, Helena, MT
Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, New York, NY
Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging, Cleveland, OH
Benefits Data Trust, Philadelphia, PA

The expected duration of the projects funded under this initiative is 12 months (March 1, 2009 to February 28, 2010).

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About NCOA
The National Council on Aging is a non-profit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. NCOA is a national voice for older Americans – especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged – and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together non-profit organizations, businesses and government to develop creative solutions that improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of organizations across the country to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently and remain active in their communities. For more information, visit www.ncoa.org.)