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Seniors Get Help To Apply For Expanded CalFresh Benefits

People enter the senior wellness center in downtown San Diego on July 23, 2019

Photo by Feeding San Diego

Above: People enter the senior wellness center in downtown San Diego on July 23, 2019

The Serving Seniors program in downtown San Diego provides breakfast and lunch for low-income seniors. But until recently, seniors who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits were not eligible for CalFresh, which meant they were on their own for dinner.

Listen to this story by John Carroll

Paul Downey, President & CEO of Serving Seniors said that led to agonizing decisions. "Do I pay for my medicine, do I pay my rent, do I pay my utility bill or do I pay for food?"

"We’re trying to get the word out about how easy it is to apply and see if you’re eligible for these benefits," said State Senator Toni Atkins. Sen. Atkins was the driving force behind the expansion of benefits, which is actually a restoration.

The state started forcing low-income seniors to decide between SSI or food benefits back in 1974.

Atkins said the restoration is part of a larger effort in Sacramento.

"We’re trying to be fiscally responsible as we restore over time a lot of these services," she said.

Fiscal responsibility also plays a part in the restoration of this particular benefit.

"It’s a good investment, a relatively cheap investment in keeping people healthy and well," Downey said.

RELATED: Calfresh Food Aid To Be Extended To Some Disabled Adults

Gwendolyn Joseph talked about how hard it is to make ends meet without the expansion of CalFresh.

"My rent and Cox Cable and SDG&E, it’s just not enough money to survive because it’s so expensive here," she said.

Joseph is waiting to hear whether she’ll be approved to receive CalFresh.

She said all low-income seniors should apply.

"It’s very good for us and they should go up there and apply for that because like I said, it puts food on your table," Joseph said.

Seniors got help with the application process on Tuesday. But if you or someone you know is low-income, of any age, you can apply too. Just call the county assistance line at 211 and you’ll get the help you need.

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

CalFresh, the state’s food assistance program, makes a push to get low-income seniors signed up. Plus, the governor's office releases potential fixes for California's DMV troubles. And SDG&E moves San Diegans to time-of-use plans in response to a changing grid.

Aired: July 24, 2019 | Transcript

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John Carroll
General Assignment Reporter & Anchor

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.

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