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The pinch of rising prices is pervasive. It is evident in the totals on our grocery receipts, monthly house payments, and utility bills. Family finances are not stretching as far as they used to. Fortunately, there are resources and programs that can help families save money, and many are underutilized.
One possible reason? Hard fought policy wins to create assistance rarely come with an advertising budget and cutting through the 24-hour news cycle can be expensive. Nevertheless, there are opportunities to tap into resources that help close the digital divide, keep food in the fridge and pantry, lower your hospital bills, and reduce property tax burdens.
Affordable Connectivity Program
High-speed internet is no longer a luxury. Lack of coverage not only limits access to social services and digital healthcare, but it can also lead to social isolation, which has been linked to negative health outcomes. While our tech-centric state is better connected than others, 230,000 households in Washington do not use broadband services, according to the Federal Communications Commission. For some households, it is lack of infrastructure, for others it is affordability. The ACP helps households afford the broadband they need. It provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households. It also allows for a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. For questions, call the ACP Support Center at (877) 384-2575 or visit getinternet.gov.
With rising food prices, health care expenses, prescription drugs and other necessities, too many families are struggling to pay bills and have healthy food to eat. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a critical benefit and plays a substantial role, not just in reducing food insecurity, but in improving the health of Washingtonians, especially among the most vulnerable. However, only 64% of eligible older Washingtonians are taking advantage of the assistance. To find out if you qualify, call the state Department of Social and Health Services Customer Services Center toll-free at 877-501-2233, or visit Washington Connection.
Rising health care costs have been a primary concern in the U.S. for many years. Washington’s charity care law directs hospitals to make financial assistance available for low-income patients to help with out-of-pocket medical costs. According to Washington’s Office of the Attorney General, approximately half of all Washingtonians are eligible for free or reduced-cost care. The program is available to the insured and uninsured. Each hospital runs its own program. To learn more about financial assistance for your hospital visit, contact the billing department, and ask for an application to apply for a charity care discount. More info about charity care and to access an eligibility calculator, visit atg.wa.gov/charitycare.
Senior Property Tax Exemption
Older adults have made it clear that they prefer to live in their own homes for as long as possible but rising property taxes are making that difficult. If you are a senior citizen, person with a disability or a disabled veteran, with your primary residence in Washington state, the senior Property Tax Exemption may help. Qualifying applicants receive a reduction in their property tax bill, and the county “freezes” your property value the year you first apply for the exemption, which will be used to determine your property taxes for future years. The amount of the reduction is based on the applicant’s income, the value of the residence, and the local levy rates. Each county assessor’s office runs its own program. Visit the Washington State Department of Revenue to locate your county assessor web page.
These programs are available today. All that it takes to get started is a phone call or computer. And this isn’t an exhaustive list. The National Council on Aging provides a BenefitsCheckUp® tool to connect older adults and people with disabilities to programs that can help pay for health care, medicine, food, utilities, and more. While some may hesitate to ask for help, your tax dollars have made these programs possible. Now is the time to see about keeping some of the money in your pocket.