Snohomish County invests $1.4 million to address isolation, food insecurity for seniors

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Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers announced Friday that the county is investing $1.4 million of its federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding into programs that address equity, isolation, and food access among older adults.

Somers has also issued a proclamation recognizing May 2024 as Older Americans Month in Snohomish County, according to a news release.

“The pandemic increased loneliness, isolation, and related negative health impacts for many Snohomish County seniors. This exacerbated existing challenges older adults with fixed incomes face in accessing services to meet basic needs such as food, housing, and other types of assistance,” Somers said. “This Older Americans Month, we’re proud to support seniors in our community with investments that create connections and support access to life-affirming services.”

The Snohomish County Follow-Up COVID-19 Seniors Survey found that older adults in the county have been disproportionately affected by pandemic impacts, particularly regarding financial stability, access to care, and food security. Among respondents to the survey:

• Twelve percent were struggling with housing payments;

• Twenty-three percent rely on a caregiver; and

• Twenty-five percent used food assistance during the pandemic.

The county is supporting two Homage initiatives to help address isolation and food insecurity among older adults. First, the county has invested $225,000 to expand Homage’s Community Table Dining Program, which provides older adults with a nutritious meal alongside fun activities and help finding needed services.

Second, the county has invested $150,000 to hire a Community Outreach Worker to engage with older Black adults, inform them about community-based services, and assist them in applying for benefits to increase in economic and social stability. This expands existing services Homage provides for Korean, Chinese, Filipino, east Asian and Hispanic seniors.

“Homage’s multicultural groups and our Community Dining Program help foster a sense of community and belonging,” said Keith Bell, CEO of Homage. “Older adults often face a great deal of loneliness and isolation, which can significantly impact their overall health and well-being. By bringing folks together to share a meal or connect with others, we nourish their bodies — and souls.”

Additionally, the county has released a $400,000 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for proposals from senior centers to support new and/or expanded projects that address social isolation among older adults. There is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk.

Finally, the county is investing $600,000 to support nonprofit organizations that provide services to older adults. These organizations support social, emotional, physical and mental health to older adults who experience challenges accessing services due to limited cultural and linguistically appropriate options.

Executive Somers established the Office of Recovery & Resilience to guide the county’s recovery work by ensuring federal pandemic relief is administered quickly, effectively, and equitably. Information on the county’s recovery work can be found at here.

  1. 1st: : The link: given above is broken.

    2nd: The “elephant in the room” is not mentioned in the above article: SNAP benefits and the serious inequities in the way DSHS administers the program. During the pandemic, it was wonderful as many seniors (like those in ALL categories -income, no. of family members, etc.) who qualified for ANY SNAP benefits) were given the maximum SNAP benefit for the category one was in, i.e. if you were single and pre-pandemic qualified for say $50 a month by DSHS calculations, then you automatically got the “maximum” SNAP benefit for your category, which could be as high as $220 a month in SNAP benefits for one.

    Once WA state officially declared the Pandemic “over,” so-called “Pandemic” SNAP benefits ended. Seniors probably have suffered the most from these cuts, which left many (if not most) receiving the minimum — something like $26 or $0 a month. Increases in medical expenses (e.g. doubling of price of a Plan D Drug plan) made no difference at all to DSHS (which I can vouch for). DSHS also calculates for example Social Security income as “UNEARNED” income, while income from a job for other applicants counts as “Earned Income.” The latter is calculated with a hefty percentage deduction based on one’s income — and less income = more SNAP benefits — while so-called “UNEARNED” income gets no such deduction.

    Families (with 1+ wage earners) get the most SNAP benefits. Helping families is wonderful — I come from a family of 9 — but not to the exclusion of struggling seniors. Food banks seem to use the same logic as DSHS. Struggling seniors also need help! Single seniors get the least help.

    In sum, some serious “rethinking” of food assistance in WA state is sorely needed.

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