The Caregiver Connection Newsletter is a free publication of the Baltimore County Department of Aging (BCDA).
January, February and March 2023
Stories in This Issue:
2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers Expense Relief—How You Can Get Help with Your Bills Respite Options—You Deserve a Break for Self-Care AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Provides Free Tax Preparation Services
2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) was pleased to announce the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers. Per an ACL press release:
“The strategy is intended to serve as a national roadmap for better recognizing and supporting family and kinship caregivers of all ages, backgrounds, and caregiving situations. It includes nearly 350 actions the federal government will take to support family caregivers in the coming years and more than 150 actions that can be adopted at other levels of government and across the private sector to build a system to support family caregivers.
The strategy was developed jointly by the advisory councils established by the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act and the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (SGRG) Act, with extensive input from family caregivers, the people they support, and other stakeholders.
Each year, around 53 million people provide a broad range of assistance to support the health, quality of life and independence of a person close to them who needs assistance as they age or due to a disability or chronic health condition. Another 2.7 million grandparent caregivers—and an unknown number of other relative caregivers—open their arms and homes each year to millions of children who cannot remain with their parents. Millions of older adults and people with disabilities would not be able to live in their communities without this essential support—and replacing it with paid services would cost an estimated $470 billion each year.
While family caregiving is rewarding, it can be challenging, and when caregivers do not have the support they need, their health, wellbeing and quality of life often suffer. Their financial future can also be put at risk; lost income due to family caregiving is estimated at $522 billion each year. When the challenges become overwhelming and family caregivers no longer can provide support, the people they care for often are left with no choices except moving to nursing homes and other institutions or to foster care— the cost of which is typically borne by taxpayers.”
While public comment ended November 30, 2022, it is anticipated that the feedback will be used to update strategy and be useful to the two mandated Congressional caregiving advisory councils. For more information please visit the ACL’s website.
Source: ACL press release October 1, 2022
Expense Relief—How You Can Get Help with Your Bills
By Kate Wallace, Maryland Access Point
As our monthly expenses continue to increase, it can create a sense of overwhelm when it comes down to crunching the numbers each month. Thankfully, there are a few types of financial benefits that can help low-income households.
What are some types of benefits that can be available?
For help with housing expenses, you can apply for the Renter’s Tax Credit or Homeowner’s Tax Credit. These tax credits help offset some of the costs for rent and property taxes. The Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation manages these programs, and interested households need to apply every year by the beginning of October.
For food assistance, there’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), also known as “food stamps.” SNAP provides a limited amount of funds each month to help pay for groceries. SNAP can also be used, in some cases, for ordering groceries online. All qualified households will receive a specific amount of money based on the total household income, ages of the family members, and some monthly expenses into consideration. The Department of Social Services (DSS) makes the eligibility determinations for SNAP. You will need to apply every year.
Utilities is also an area that you can look at for financial assistance. There is a program called Energy Assistance that can help save some money on your electric bill. The Office of Home Energy Assistance and DSS process those applications and determine eligibility. You will need to apply every year. There are also some newly created utilities benefits for water and internet. The Low-Income Water Assistance Program (LIWAP) helps qualified households save on their water bill. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), can help qualified households get a discount of up to $30 per month towards their internet bill. All utility assistance programs also need to be applied every year, for continued assistance.
Helpful Tips for Applying to Assistance Programs
The benefits world can be complex, confusing and frustrating. However, there’s a few tips that can be helpful as you navigate and apply for programs. The first tip I always share with callers is to be patient. Applications for benefits typically take several weeks to be processed and approved. While your applications are taking time to be processed, you might be thinking, “What should I be doing in the meantime?” Consider looking at emergency resources in the meantime, such as food pantries and houses of worship, to get connected with emergency funds or food.
My next tip that I share is to be sure that you are sending your applications to the right place. For example, if you are applying for SNAP benefits, you must submit your application to the Department of Social Services (DSS). If you submit your application to the wrong department, it can lead to a significantly longer processing time. Be sure to check all the application instructions to make sure that everything is submitted to the right office and all of your supportive documentation is included. It is also important to check the application procedures for each program. Some programs, such as SNAP, LIWAP, and Energy Assistance have an online application option.
It is also helpful to be on the lookout for any public opportunities for assistance with your applications. For example, the Department of Aging has various workshops at senior centers that help people apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Another example of community assistance with forms is the Social Worker in the Library program, where a social worker assists people in the local libraries on the east side of Baltimore County.
The third tip I give to callers is to keep a copy of your applications. This is helpful for two reasons: one, it helps you keep track of what programs you’ve applied to and when, and two, you have a copy that you can resend if your other application was lost in the mail.
If you are in need of applications for these programs or if you are looking to see if you meet the eligibility criteria, you can reach out to the Maryland Access Point office at 410-887-2594.
Respite Options—You Deserve a Break for Self-Care
As the new year unfolds, also be sure to seek respite—a short break. Some resources include: traveling on a caregivers grant with the organization, Road Scholar. For caregivers who are providing care to their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and are seeking respite support, check out another organization, Hilarity for Charity.
Through the BCDA’s Caregivers program, a respite stipend of $500 per year is available. To apply, call 410-887-4724. This $500 is also available for older adults, age 55+, who are caring for children who live with them.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Provides Free Tax Preparation Services
Beginning February 2023, the AARP Tax-Aide Program, with the support of the Baltimore County Department of Aging, will be providing free tax preparation and electronic filing services at select senior centers and other locations throughout Baltimore County and Baltimore City. In addition to tax preparation and e-filing, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide will also help complete Homeowner’s Tax Credit Applications and Renter’s Tax Credit Applications for clients.
The service is for individuals with low-to-moderate income, with an emphasis on individuals aged 60 and above. All preparations will begin in February 2023 and will be by appointment only. Appointment days and times vary for each site and are on a first come, first serve basis. Reservations for appointments will begin in early January 2023.
Past Editions of Caregiver Connection
Read past editions of the Caregiver Connection newsletter: