City getting shortchanged as entitled residents unaware of benefits

    By: Bill Hangley

    City officials say tens of thousands of older Philadelphians aren’t getting the public benefits they’re entitled to. But the city won’t be repeating the intensive outreach program that helped thousands more get signed up. WHYY’s Bill Hangley reports.

    By: Bill Hangley
    bhangley@whyy.org

    City officials say tens of thousands of older Philadelphians aren’t getting the public benefits they’re entitled to. But the city won’t be repeating the intensive outreach program that helped thousands more get signed up. WHYY’s Bill Hangley reports.

    [audio: reports20090130benefits.mp3]

    Transcript:
    In just four months, the city found and registered about six thousand Philadelphia seniors for food stamps, tax rebates, and prescription drug benefits worth a total of about $16 million. But signing up those seniors wasn’t easy or cheap, and the funds that made the outreach possible won’t be available in the year to come. Tom Snedden is a program director with the state Department of Aging, which funded the registration drive.

    Snedden: “What we did last fall, because of the special needs of Philadelphia, was, we basically shut down the outreach in 66 counties for four months and focused on Philadephia. For this year, we can’t really do that.”

    Snedden estimates that about 50,000 older Philadelphians are leaving over $100 million worth of benefits unclaimed. His department will only be able to fund enough outreach to register a few thousand seniors next year. City officials say they’ll try to make up the difference. But with the city facing a billion-dollar deficit, they’re counting on residents to make sure elderly friends and relatives get what they’re entitled to.

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