Age has its privileges, and there are tangible benefits to growing older. Yet many Jewish Philadelphians ages 60 and older are not receiving the full complement of federal and state benefits to which they are entitled. A new partnership forged between the BenePhilly Enrollment Center and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia aims to correct this situation.
Brian Gralnick, director of Federation's Center for Social Responsibility, advises older adults in Philadelphia to be on the look out for a letter from Federation and its community partners — the Jewish Family and Children's Services, the Mitzvah Food Project, the Jewish Relief Agency, the JCC Klein and the Stiffel Center — encouraging them to call the BenePhilly Helpline, 1-800-236-2194, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
All callers will receive free, confidential assistance from a trained benefits specialist. He or she will help seniors determine whether they are eligible for PACE/PACENET, the Pennsylvania Prescription Assistance Program; property tax/rent rebates; the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy; Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and/or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as food-stamp assistance. The specialists will also fill out the necessary paperwork for the older adult. These benefits can provide up to $8,700 worth of help each year.
BenePhilly is operated by Benefits Data Trust, a Philadelphia-based not-for-profit organization recently acknowledged as a worthy investment by University of Pennsylvania Center for High Impact Philanthropy. Since its inception in 2008, BenePhilly has successfully submitted more than 13,450 benefit applications for area seniors.
Gralnick emphasizes that there are a significant number of older Jewish Philadelphians who meet the income requirements for SNAP benefits, but have not yet applied for them. On average, recipients get an average of $70 per month to use for groceries, which helps stretch their monthly incomes.
Gralnick explains that BenePhilly is uniquely qualified to help Philadelphia seniors to access SNAP benefits due to its participation in a two-year demonstration project, conducted in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and local community partners. "They know how to simplify the process and make it easier to apply — at home and over the phone," he says.
He emphasizes the importance of seniors utilizing all the federal and state benefits to which they are entitled: "Enrolling into benefit programs will help us better leverage the charitable contributions of donors and have a greater impact on our people in need."
The goal for the partnership is to produce a 20:1 return on investment in year one alone. The partnership is one of several new initiatives funded in the last allocation cycle and provides BenePhilly with a full-time, Russian-speaking benefit-enrollment specialist.
Gralnick notes that the BenePhilly Enrollment Center resource is currently only available to older adults who live in Philadelphia County. Residents of neighboring counties should call their state legislator for assistance in determining eligibility and applying for benefits.
Letters explaining this new initiative between BenePhilly and Federation will be mailed out beginning on Nov. 1.
Gralnick explains that "when you receive your letter, simply dial 1-800-236-2194. If you don't get a letter but live in Philadelphia and are over 60, call and say 'Brian from Federation' suggested you do so."