With higher than normal inflation, many seniors on fixed incomes are looking for help to make ends meet and ensure they have access to healthy and nutritious food.
There has been talk of a “grocery stimulus” or additional coverage under the Food stamp/SNAP program (Commodity Supplemental Food Program), but it has been hard to get clarity on what is available. So thought I would use this article to provide a summary of some options out there for Seniors.
One thing to note is that many of the programs are administered at the state or local level, in line with federal guidelines. So please do your own research following some of the general information available here.
Is there a $900 Grocery Stimulus?
So a lot of seniors may have heard about a $900 grocery stimulus for those over 60 or some related variant or amount. This payment was likely spurred by speculation of additional stimulus checks for seniors. However no additional federal funding was passed for new stimulus payments in 2022 to 2023.
Seniors can still claim prior stimulus payments and related benefits via filing a prior year tax return, but to get grocery benefits they will need to avail of one of the programs discussed below.
Several states are also providing additional tax and stimulus payments to eligible residents, which may provide some additional benefits to seniors.
Medicare Advantage Plans and Grocery Benefits
The main (healthy) grocery benefit available to many seniors are via supplementary benefits under certain Medicare advantage plans offered by private health insurers.
These supplementary grocery payments are an added benefit to Medicare advantage (Part C) plans, and not generally available via the original Medicare Part A and B public plans. There is also often a qualifying health condition (quite broad) to be eligible for this plan.
The amount of coverage and benefit amount will vary by plan and in the state you live. There are also restrictions to the foods (e.g. fruits and vegetables are allowed, but not candy or sweet items) and merchants you can go to.
If you qualify for your plan’s grocery benefits, you’ll likely get a pre-paid (or flex) grocery benefit card (like a HSA or FSA card) for buying specific items, with the card loaded on monthly or quarterly basis based on your plan.
The best option to check if you have this benefit, including how much and what you can claim is to call or see your insurers website. Some plans even offer meal delivery as a benefit.
SNAP/Food Stamp Benefits for Seniors
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps over 5 million seniors meet their basic food needs. Seniors, or those over 60, generally have lower income qualification thresholds to get SNAP benefits.
Senior Households where at least one or more member is over 60 may have $4,250 in countable resources (such as cash or money in a bank account) and still qualify for SNAP benefits. There are other rules, but in total and depending on household size, maximum monthly benefits average over $240.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program
There is a sub-program called the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) to further help seniors who are at or below 130% of the Federal poverty guidelines.
If you meet program guidelines and are over 60, you can get a free 40-pound box of USDA approved food items each month for locally qualified pantry’s or providers.
Over 600,000 seniors earning less than $15,000 (living alone) benefited from this program.
Like the SNAP program, the CSFP program is administered at the state level and you will need to go to your state’s website (search via google) for the agency and to confirm qualification requirements.
There is also the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) which allows your EBT card to be used at locally approved resturants. This is for seniors who cannot prepare meals at their home or don’t have permanent housing. The RMP is state-run and sponsored, and not all states offer this program
Other Food Programs
There are also many other grocery and free food programs available via local charities and organizations to help Seniors. This includes Meals-on-Wheels, Feeding America and various USFNA programs.