Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Minnesota is one of 12 states participating so far in the Elder Economic Security Initiative, which involves gathering data on the true cost of living and advocating for action at every level (individual, community, employers, government, etc.) to improve the economic status of older people. In February 2009, Minnesota became the sixth state to present its data. In summary, the data show that many elders in Minnesota do not have enough money to meet their basic needs. Here's an example for a woman over 65 in good health, based on statewide data: The average Social Security benefit for this Minnesota woman is $11,233 - just above the federal poverty level for a single elder, which is $10,400. The median retirement income from all sources for Minnesota women is only slightly higher, at $12,691. But the Elder Index, showing the true cost of living based on bare-bones housing, transportation, food, and out of pocket health care costs, is $19,090 - a significant gap. Click here to download the MinnEESI bookmark as a handy reminder of these uncomfortable realities.
The project has also reviewed the helpfulness of various programs for low-income Minnesota elders: Supplemental Security Income, Minnesota Supplemental Aid, Food Support, Medical Assistance, Medicare Savings programs, Prescription Assistance, Energy Assistance Program, Housing Assistance, and Property Tax Relief. MinnEESI research shows that these programs are helpful for people who qualify - but many do not qualify. Housing assistance can move some of these elders up to 93% of the economic security Index level - but the supply of public housing and housing vouchers is very limited and therefore many of those who are eligible languish on long waiting lists. The MinnEESI project is continuing to investigate policy changes that might improve the economic status of elders, using the new data as a useful measuring stick. We also continue to connect organizations concerned about the economic status of older people. Over 40 groups so far have endorsed the Index as a useful tool.
Please stay connected and feel free to refer concerned individuals and organizations to us for more information. If you would like to review more about the project (Public Radio interview, op ed piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, County-by-county data, and more), please visit the national website's Minnesota page. In the months and years ahead, we hope to make a difference by spreading the word about the true costs of living, and by advocating for change at all levels of society.