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CINCINNATI — More senior residents will have access to funds to help cover the rising costs of utilities and home repairs thanks to a new Hamilton County program. The goal is to enable as many seniors as possible to continue living independently in their own home.
What You Need To Know
- Senior Utility Assistance and Home Repair Program offers financial help to seniors who don’t qualify for other such programs
- Hamilton County residents are eligible if they’re 60 or older and earn no more than 300% of the poverty line
- Eligible residents can get up to $500 for utility assistance and additional money to make necessary modifications to their home
- The program is a partnership between Hamilton County and the Council on Aging
The $1 million pilot program will assist seniors who aren’t eligible for other utility and home modification programs because of financial restrictions. The county’s program is for Hamilton County residents 60 and older whose income is up to 300% of the poverty level.
For perspective, that would mean a person who lives could earn up to $40,770 and remain eligible. That number goes up to $83,250 for a household of four people.
Eligible residents can get a onetime credit of up to $500 toward water or gas/electric bills. The Home Repair portion of the program covers home modification and repairs for things such as ramps, railings, bathroom grab bars, HVAC repair or other maintenance to help older adults continue living at their home.
People can apply for one or both aspects of the program.
“We wanted to make sure that there was no stone unturned in providing relief to all of Hamilton County,” said Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas. “We knew we needed to help the seniors who were hurting but were unable to access other assistance programs. This program intentionally targets them.”
The cost of living rose significantly in the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving seniors disproportionately burdened with inflation.
There are several existing utility programs available to Hamilton County residents, but most have strict income limitations. Most of those programs aren’t available to older adults who have incomes above 175% of poverty level — meaning seniors who earn just under $24,000 do not qualify.
Commissioner Alicia Reece said they heard from seniors trying to get access to COVID relief funds, but they weren’t able to help because of strict federal guidelines.
This new program will help those residents in danger of “falling between the cracks.”
“I’m happy that my colleagues joined me in voting unanimously to make sure seniors aren’t left behind,” she said. “These types of programs are so important to keep people’s lights on and to keep the water running.”
Nearly 22% of Hamilton County’s population is 60 or older. More than 27% of them have some form of disability, and more than 17% have incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level, according to the Council on Aging.
The agency’s data shows 73% of county residents 60 or older own their home.
“We’re hopeful the pandemic is ending, but we know many older adults will feel its impact for some time,” said Suzanne Burke, the CEO of Council on Aging.
The risk of utility shutoff and not being able to make necessary accessibility to their home threatens the independence of many senior citizens, Burke said.
“Everything costs more than it did two years ago,” she added. “When you live on a limited budget — as do the folks we’re trying to serve through this program — it’s not hard to imagine being in a situation where you’re choosing between paying the electric bill or filling a prescription.”
The funds for the program came from Hamilton County’s senior services tax levy.
Hamilton County will monitor how the funds get used in order to track the need and determine whether they should provide more money to the program.
Those interested in applying can do so through the Hamilton County Senior Utility Assistance and Home Repair Program at help4Seniors.org. They can also call 513-743-9000.
Additional information about this program and other Hamilton County relief efforts is available at 513Relief.org.