NJFA 2014 Conference Materials
Thank you to all who attended NJFA’s 16th Annual Conference on June 11, 2014.
Many of you expressed interest in some of the materials from the day. We have received materials from some of the presenters. You may see this information in google docs (click link).
NJFA Supports Heat and Eat
Twenty-Five Percent of NJ’s Seniors Can’t Cover Their Basic Costs
Trenton–Since 2008 the cost of living for seniors on a fixed income in New Jersey has increased to 13 to 14 percent. The basic cost of living for a single elder living in a one bedroom apartment was $25,941 in 2008. That same renter, living in the same one bedroom apartment, saw her basic expenses quickly climb to more than $29,436 in 2014. However, there was not a comparable rise in her income or Social Security. Seniors on fixed incomes have been plagued in recent years with rising expenses for housing, transportation and health care. In many cases this has resulted in a rise in senior hunger and even homelessness.
Heat and Eat Programs are vital for our most economically vulnerable residents. The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) works with a variety of partners to highlight the essential safety net programs for low income seniors. These programs can make the difference when seniors are faced with the daily challenge of paying the rent or buying food, paying for utilities or needed prescriptions. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- formerly Food Stamps) and LIHEAP (a subsidy program for utility assistance) and other energy subsidies are such programs.
The NJ Foundation for Aging developed the NJ Elder Index and related data in partnership with the national organization Wider Opportunities for Women. The data indicates that more than 252,000 NJ elders living the community do not have sufficient income or assets to cover their basic living expenses. Sixty-four percent facing this daily financial challenge are women. The average statewide basic costs for a single elder renter in good health living in a one bedroom apartment are $29,436 annually; for an elder couple in a one bedroom apartment the costs rise to nearly $41,000. The cost centers include housing (rent or a mortgage, taxes and utilities); health care cost for Medicare premiums, and out of pocket costs; transportation and food. The housing costs are slightly lower for homeowners without a mortgage and much higher for elder households still paying a mortgage.
The NJ Elder Index shows that twenty-five percent of all NJ seniors rely solely on their Social Security benefit. The average Social Security benefit for a woman in NJ is around $14,800 and slightly higher for a man at around $19,000. The gap is significant between this income level and the basic living expenses for an elder living in one bedroom apartment at $29,436.
However, many seniors actually receive significantly less than the average Social Security benefit. This point was clearly illustrated in a recent letter to our office from a single 84 year old elder whose sole income is $761 a month from Social Security. After her rent she only has $104 to cover her monthly expenses. Her monthly SNAP benefit is crucial to her quality of life and wellness. Many NJ seniors who have worked and saved find they face a similar challenge with the widening gap between their costs and income. SNAP and LIHEAP benefits make the difference for thousands of our neighbors across NJ.
Cuts for these programs are now in place which will disproportionately hurt seniors and persons with disabilities. As advocates, we need to raise our voices to urge the restoration of these cuts by supporting several state remedies including the budgetary resolutions that are being considered to assure that $3.2 million is available so that food stamps are available for about 177,000 families.
These cash benefit programs not only provide a base for quality of life and wellness for low income seniors and low income families, but also dramatically impact our local economy. It is estimated that every one SNAP dollar results in $1.70 that is actually spent locally.
These are essential programs for New Jersey’s low income residents and our economy.
The New Jersey Foundation for Aging mission is promote policy and services that enable older adults to live in the community with independence & dignity. www.njfoundationforaging.org or call 609-421-0206