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Medicare Rights Center and Food Bank For New York City Awarded $1 Million to Increase Enrollment of Low-Income New Yorkers in Assistance Programs


New York, NY (July 6, 2009) —The Medicare Rights Center (Medicare Rights) and Food Bank For New York City (Food Bank) have joined forces to enroll poor older New York City residents in programs to help them afford health care and healthy food. Funded by a $1 million grant from the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the two advocacy organizations will help city seniors enroll in four under-utilized assistance programs, with a total project value to enrollees of $46 million.

Over a two-year grant period, Medicare Rights and Food Bank will work collaboratively through hotlines and field sites to enroll seniors in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Food Stamp Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), Medicare Savings Programs, the Extra Help program under the Medicare drug benefit, and the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program. The two advocacy organizations will also work with city agencies to improve enrollment systems and benefits administration for future enrollees.

“Improving access to Medicare-related assistance programs has been a top priority in both our direct services and policy initiatives,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “We are delighted to launch this innovative outreach and enrollment drive with one of the city’s strongest advocacy organizations. We are eager to work with the Human Resources Administration, the Department for the Aging, and others to streamline systems so that poor older New Yorkers can receive all of the benefits they’re entitled to as quickly as possible.”

“New York City seniors are one of our most vulnerable populations, representing one in six New Yorkers who rely on food assistance organizations. However, the elderly continue to have the lowest participation rate in the Food Stamp Program,” said Dr. Lucy Cabrera, President and CEO of the Food Bank For New York City. “This project will illustrate that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. This collaboration will equip all parties to help a greater number of poor New York City seniors than any of us could do on our own.”

“The Foundation’s mission is to improve the health care and quality of life of older New York City residents,” said Julio Urbina, Director of the Healthy Aging Program at the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation. “This project will address two critical needs—food and health care—by bringing together dedicated advocacy groups and city agencies. We look forward to learning how more people can lead healthier lives through improved access to much-needed assistance programs.”

This project will make it easier for New York City seniors to access existing public benefits, which frequently go untapped. According to a 2005 Food Bank report, of all Emergency Food Program (EFP) participants, older adults have the lowest participation rate in the Food Stamp program, with only 17 percent of eligible older adults enrolled. Further, over 100,000 older New Yorkers are eligible for but not enrolled in Medicare Savings Programs, which cover premiums and cost-sharing for medical care under Medicare. And about 55,000 low-income older New Yorkers remain unenrolled in the Extra Help program, which helps with premiums and copayments for Medicare prescription drug coverage.

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