Financial Help for Senior Citizens Over 50: Free Money

Seniors do not have to wait until they are over 65 to begin tapping into financial assistance. You can start once you are over 50 or any age as many programs target help to households with low incomes.

Sometimes, the best way to tackle a problem is to attack it from multiple angles. While you might run across duplication, you do unearth hidden opportunities you might otherwise miss.

Therefore, we break down senior assistance programs into three categories: government grants and benefits, free services, and charitable organizations.

Good luck finding the help you need to live your later years with dignity.

Free Services for Senior Citizens

Scouring the internet for free services is an angle seniors can take to find financial assistance by making their dollars stretch further. It is incredible how much stuff you can get at zero cost if you know where to look.

Free Food

Senior citizens are frequently eligible for free food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – otherwise known as Food Stamps.

SNAP provides nutrition benefits to augment the food budget of needy families to purchase healthy fare at grocery stores.

Apply for SNAP in the state where you live. The criteria for people over the age of 60 are more lenient.

Free Legal Services

Seniors can also take advantage of free legal services to help them put together critical estate planning documents: wills, power of attorney, advance directives, etc.

Begin at the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) website to find a local provider. LSC is a non-profit organization authorized by Congress that provides grants to entities offering help with civil matters.

Free Home Repairs

Seniors often qualify for free home repair services because they have low fixed incomes during retirement, and others have compassion for the elderly. Once again, you might have to look under many different rocks to find help fixing up your house.

  1. Charitable organizations
  2. USDA Section 504
  3. State government agencies

Free HVAC

Seniors often qualify for free HVAC replacement systems available to low-income families across the country. Three government initiatives often combine to make upgrades to inefficient furnaces, water heaters, and air conditioning systems more affordable.

  1. Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
  2. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  3. Energy Star (ES)

Free Money for Widows

The Social Security Administration provides free money for widows, widowers, and dependents via survivors benefits. You do not have to be a senior to be eligible for two types of financial assistance.

  1. Special lump-sum death benefit ($255)
  2. Monthly payments for qualified survivors
    1. Widows age 60 or older
    1. Widows age 50 + if disabled
    1. Widow of any age caring for a child
      1. Under 16
      1. Disabled and receiving child’s benefits
    1. Some unmarried children of the deceased

Widows cannot apply for survivors’ benefits online. Instead, make sure that you provide the correct social security number to the funeral home so that they can report the death accurately.

Free Phones

Seniors often qualify for free government phones through the Lifeline program. You must meet one of two eligibility criteria.

  1. Income below 135% of federal poverty guidelines
  2. Already participate in other government benefits
    1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    1. Medicaid
    1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    1. Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
    1. Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

Apply for the Lifeline program at the Universal Service Administrative Company website. However, the benefit is not as rich as described on commercial websites. If eligible, you could receive a $9.25 discount ($34.25 if living on tribal lands) towards the monthly cost of a phone, internet, and bundled services.

Private communications carriers offer free phones to Lifeline-eligible consumers willing to sign a long-term contract. It is not a handout.

Free Tax Preparation

Seniors can take advantage of free tax preparation services available through the IRS and community organizations. For instance, the IRS supports two programs to help qualified individuals over 60.

  1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
  2. Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

Find a local VITA or TCE provider near you. They typically operate at libraries, schools, shopping malls, and community centers.

Free Transportation

The local senior center in your town or city is the best place to turn for free transportation services. Many municipalities provide busing services using the center as the hub.

You can expect zero-cost transportation to and from the senior center.

  • Home
  • Grocery stores
  • Doctor offices in town

Government Benefits for Seniors

Government benefits are the prominent place for senior citizens to look for financial assistance because the free money materializes out of thin air in the esteemed halls of Congress. Only our federal lawmakers can raise the debt ceiling and impose taxes to fund “human infrastructure.”

Grants for Over 50

Government grants for people over 50 help seniors earn extra income in their early golden years. Grants are free money that you do not have to repay, so this form of financial assistance is ideal – if you qualify.

Federal agencies typically do not award grants to individuals, except in two instances: when pursuing a college education or sometimes when starting a small business.

College Grants

The US Department of Education provides several grants that enable seniors over 50 to attend college and update their job skills. Also, need-based financial aid takes a massive bite out of tuition costs.

Completing the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FASFA) form is the key to unlocking this free government money. You might qualify for one or more of these programs.

  • Pell grants awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need
  • Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG) students completing an academically rigorous high school program
  • National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants go to students in high-demand majors
  • TEACH Grants to help students who agree to teach in high-need fields for at least four years after graduation
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) help low-income undergraduates who need extra aid to pay for college

Business Grants

The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides limited grants to states and community organizations to promote entrepreneurship. Seniors over 50 can indirectly take advantage of this free money from the government to help their startup get off the ground.

The SBA does not provide grants for starting or expanding a business. You have to find the intermediate entities they support and apply for assistance with them. For instance, you could find help with management and technical prowess or export development.

The only exception pertains to businesses engaged in scientific research and development. Direct grants are available through two federal programs.

  1. Small Business Innovation Research
  2. Small Business Technology Transfer

PACE

The Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) provide comprehensive medical and social services for specific seniors over 55. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides grants to local organizations to fund PACE benefits.

Find a PACE plan in your area from this online portal. The program helps frail individuals who need nursing home care to remain in their community instead of an institution. You must meet these criteria.

  • Age 55 or older
  • Live in the service area of a PACE organization
  • Eligible for nursing home care
  • Be able to live safely in the community

Benefits for Over 65

Government benefits for seniors over 65 reduce medical and caretaker costs while providing retirement income. The combination stretches retirement dollars further.

$3,000 Resource Limit

Three government senior assistance programs include a $3,000 resource limit for married couples and $2,000 for an unmarried individual over 65, plus caps on earned income. The methodologies used by the Social Security Administration for SSI eligibility apply in each instance.

SSI

Seniors over 65 often qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which pays a cash benefit to individuals with limited income and resources to help with necessities: food, clothing, and shelter.

Apply for SSI by completing an application on the government-run online portal.

The average elderly SSI recipient gets about $800 per month. However, this senior assistance program has earned income and resource limits.

Resources:

  • $3,000 for a married couple
  • $2,000 for an individual

Earned Income: the Federal Benefit Rate

Medicare

Medicare provides health benefits for seniors over 65. Many individuals lose their employer-sponsored medical insurance after they retire, so the government steps in to provide a substitute.

However, many elders need extra help paying the Medicare premiums and reducing the unreimbursed costs (deductibles, copayments, and co-insurance) when they utilize the coverage by seeking treatment from a doctor or hospital.

The Medicare Saving Programs (MSP) address this need in each of the states. This senior assistance program has similar earned income and resource limits as SSI.

Resources:

  • $3,000 for a married couple
  • $2,000 for an individual

Earned Income: the Federal Benefit Rate for SSI

Medicaid

Medicaid covers the cost of long-term services and supports (LTSS) for many seniors over 65 who can no longer perform two or more activities of daily living.

  1. Mobility
  2. Dressing
  3. Eating
  4. Personal Hygiene
  5. Toileting

Medicare does not cover long-term services and supports (adult day care, assisted living, home health aides, nursing home care for dementia, respite care, etc.). However, Medicaid acts as a senior assistance program for LTSS, subject to similar SSI criteria for resources and earned income.

Resources:

  • $3,000 for a married couple
  • $2,000 for an individual

Earned Income: the Federal Benefit Rate for SSI

Medicaid sometimes covers dental work for adults – an important consideration for those who qualify.

Social Security

Older people rely on Social Security retirement benefits to replace a portion of income once they stop working. This senior assistance program does not have a $3,000 resource limitation for married couples ($2,000 for individuals), making it more widely available.

Apply for Social Security retirement benefits online. However, you do not have to wait until you are over age 65 to begin, and your start date affects the monthly amount you might receive.

  • Age 62: lowest
  • Age 66 and 8 months (full retirement): middle
  • Age 70: highest

Organizations that Help Senior Citizens

The USA is full of organizations with missions to help senior citizens cope with the aging process. Therefore, a strategy centered on researching national and community-based charities and non-profits is a reasonable approach to finding needed help.  

Non-Profit Organizations

A complete listing of non-profit organizations that help senior citizens goes beyond the scope of this article. Other online resources have compiled databases organized by geography, needs, and other factors.

Non-profit organizations often rely on donors’ generosity and often lack enough resources to assist every person expressing a need. Therefore, you may have to look under many rocks.

Begin your search at these other websites, which each has a unique summary of charities that might offer help.

Community Organizations

This article is not the place to look for community organizations that help senior citizens because, by definition, your neighborhood is the ideal starting point.

Rather than search online for a local resource, contact the Department for Aging in your city or town. Most of these municipal agencies have taxpayer-funded budgets to help the elderly. For instance, you might find information about specific programs, services, and activities.

  • Access to caregiver services
  • Information about Medicare options
  • Protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation