In a recent Senior Life column, Sally Kelly wrote about help Portage County is offering to seniors who are having trouble meeting their bills. Here is a detailed look:
Job and Family Services is administering a Healthy Aging Grant, available to seniors who are at least 60 years old, reside in the county and are at or below 300% of the federal poverty level.
In dollars and cents, that means a single person living alone may have a monthly income of $3,645 or yearly income of $43,740. A senior couple with no one else living in the household may claim a monthly income of $4,930 or a yearly income of $59,160.
The income cap for a household of three is $6,215 a month or $74,580 annually. For a household of four, it is $7,500 a month or $90,000 a year.
Recipients must also have been impacted in some way by Covid-19, which includes just about everybody.
Many older adults are likely to have an underlying medical condition that can put them at greater risk even when they are simply exposed to Covid-19, JFS Director Kellijo Jeffries explained.
Recipients may use the funds for food assistance, including home-delivered meals and food pantries like Center of Hope; care coordination; transportation assistance; and homeowner or rental assistance, which extends to help paying utilities, property taxes, financing home repairs and meeting mortgage, security deposit and rent payments.
Grant funds may also be used for case management services, which include help managing budgeting, paying bills, ensuring safety at home and obtaining personal hygiene products. Case management services also link seniors to ReStore vouchers for furniture and to socialization support, such as at senior centers.
Funds will also be available to bring or keep seniors digitally up to date: internet services, tablets and training are all covered, as is providing access to programs and services.
To link older adults to these services, JFS may refer grant recipients to Direction Home, Community Action Council, Catholic Charities, Hope on Wheels and Family & Community Services of Portage County.
Seniors can apply online at www.portagecounty-oh.gov/jfs or in person at the JFS office, second floor of the county administration office, 449 S. Meridian St., Ravenna. Seniors may also call the JFS office at 330-389-7512 for more information or to have a paper application mailed to them.
Recipients will need to provide proof of their identity (a photo I.D., social security card or birth certificate), proof of income (social security award letters, pay stubs, statements of income), and proof of need (delinquent bills, statements of need for food, household supplies, home modifications and transportation requests, including dates and locations.)
Additional documentation may be required.
The state Department of Aging provided the funds to all counties that applied and funneled a total of $451,874 to Portage County, Jeffries said.
“We’re hoping we can spread it out as long as we can,” she said, adding that county leaders involved in a newly created “Portage 50 Plus” community group intend to discuss how to provide needed services on a sustained basis.
“We know seniors are rationing their medications, going without food or not eating enough, and can’t get to senior centers or other appointments,” Jeffries said.
Healthy Aging funds will be available to qualified residents on a first-come, first-served basis through June 30, or until the money runs out. As of Feb. 1, JFS had received 45 applications, Jeffries said.