Commissioners Partner with Council on Aging to Provide Utility and Home Repair Assistance for Seniors Ineligible for Other Assistance Programs
Hamilton County, Ohio (May 5, 2022) Hamilton County Commissioners have partnered with Council on Aging, the county’s Area Agency on Aging, to launch a new Senior Utility Assistance and Home Repair Program. The program came about after commissioners heard from senior citizens throughout Hamilton County who are ineligible for existing assistance programs because of strict income limitations. The cost of living has risen significantly in the past two years, leaving seniors on fixed incomes disproportionately burdened with inflation. This program aims to serve those who are falling between the cracks of other available relief and assistance programs and whose independence may be jeopardized by the threat of utility shut off or home inaccessibility issues.
The Hamilton County Senior Utility Assistance and Home Repair Program is a $1 million pilot program to expand help to those income-eligible seniors who are ineligible for other utility and home modification programs. The program is for Hamilton County residents age 60 and older whose income is up to 300% of the poverty level. The Utility Assistance portion of the program provides a one-time credit of up to $500 towards water or gas/electric bills. The Home Repair portion of the program covers home modification and repairs such as ramps, railings, bathroom grab bars, HVAC repair or other maintenance to help older adults continue to remain living at home. Older adults may qualify for assistance through one or both of these options. The program is funded by the County’s senior services tax levy in order to serve those who do not qualify for existing assistance programs.
“We heard from a lot of seniors who came out to the 513Relief Bus to get assistance but when they got to the front of the line, unfortunately, we were unable to help them because of the federal guidelines,” said Commission Vice President Alicia Reece. “I’m happy that my colleagues joined me in voting unanimously to make sure seniors aren’t left behind… These types of programs are so important to keep peoples’ lights on and to keep the water running.”
“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.”
“This is a creative solution to a problem that became apparent as we listened to our older residents across the County who were not eligible for federal funding but have significant needs,” said Commissioner Denise Driehaus. “These funds will allow us to track the need and whether additional resources should be allocated.”
“We’re hopeful the pandemic is ending, but we know many older adults will feel its impact for some time,” said Council on Aging CEO, Suzanne Burke. “Everything costs more than it did two years ago. When you live on a limited budget – as do the folks we’re trying 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.”
Nearly 22% of Hamilton County’s population is age 60+. More than 27% have some form of disability, and more than 17% have incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. 73% own their own home while 27% rent their homes. Utility assistance is available to Hamilton County residents through several currently existing programs, but none are available to older adults with an income above 175% of poverty – meaning seniors with an income just under $24,000 do not qualify for most existing assistance programs. The goal of this program is to provide financial assistance to eligible older adults who may be struggling with utility bills and for seniors in need of home modifications so they can remain independent.
Eligible older adults can apply for assistance through the Hamilton County Senior Utility Assistance and Home Repair Program through Council on Aging’s website, help4Seniors.org, or by calling (513) 743-9000. Information can also be found on 513Relief.org.