The government offers many programs that aid various types of individuals, including those struggling with issues of hunger, income, and housing. There are two types of public benefits: means-tested and non-means tested programs. In addition to other requirements, means-tested programs consider the applicant’s income, resources, or both; non-means tested programs do not take these into account. Examples of non-means examined plans include Social Security and Medicare. Some cases of means-tested programs are:
§ Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
§ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and
§ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Navigating public benefits and their requirements are challenging but can prove even more difficult for families, whose primary concern is caring for a loved one with disabilities. An example of this is that an individual may be eligible for several public benefit programs, which each has different limits for income and resources. In addition to this difference, the various programs may treat types of income or resources differently concerning whether it counts toward the allowable limits set by each program. The experienced estate planning, elder law, and special needs planning attorneys at Weaver, Bennett & Bland can help you learn more about available public benefits for your situation. Our attorneys can also apply for such applicable benefits and protect any resources that would otherwise make you ineligible for means-tested federal benefits.
1. Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a U.S. government program that is administered by the Social Security Administration and provides money to low-income individuals who are either aged 65 or older, blind, or disabled. Additionally, as a means-tested program, SSI has an income test and a resource limit. Although SSA administers this program, SSI is funded from the U.S. Treasury’s general funds, not the Social Security trust fund. SSI provides a cash benefit (in 2017, up to $735.00 per month for an individual or $1,103.00 for a couple) to eligible individuals to ensure they have the minimum level of income so that they can pay for basic needs such as food and shelter. For individuals who qualify for SSI, even if it is just $1, they are automatically eligible for their state’s Medicaid program. Contact the attorneys at Weaver, Bennett & Bland to help preserve your eligibility for SSI in North Carolina.
2. Medicaid in North Carolina and South Carolina
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health insurance to low-income individuals, including children, pregnant women, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. Medicaid is the largest source of health coverage in the United States. To participate in the Medicaid program, states are required to provide coverage to certain mandatory eligibility groups, which includes individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income. In addition to the mandatory eligibility groups, states have additional coverage options, which may consist of individuals receiving home and community-based services and children in foster care, who are not otherwise eligible. Medicaid programs also assist with the costs of care required in a skilled nursing facility.
North Carolina Medicaid is administered by the Division of Medical Assistance of the Department of Health and Human Services. South Carolina’s Medicaid program, which is called Healthy Connections, is managed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Medicaid is a means-tested program and therefore has an income test and resource limit.
3. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is also referred to as Food and Nutrition Services, offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families with a nutritionally adequate diet. SNAP is a means-tested program, with an income limit and a limit of countable resources of $2,250 or $3,250 for households with at least one person who is age 60 or older or is disabled. Currently, the maximum monthly allotment for this program starts at $194.00 for one person households, and this benefit is automatically loaded onto the household’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which works like a bank debit card. When the card is used to purchase eligible food items, the corresponding amount is automatically deducted from the map.
4. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps keep families healthy and safe by assisting with energy costs and could provide federally funded assistance in managing costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, and weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs.
In North Carolina, this program is referred to as the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) and provides a one-time vendor payment to help eligible households pay their heating bills. Only families that have an elderly person age 60 and above or an individual with disabilities receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services are eligible to receive benefits from December 1st through December 31st; any household, who meets the eligibility requirements, can potentially receive benefits from January 1 through March 31 (or until funds are depleted). To be eligible for this means-tested program, a household must meet an income test, have reserves at or below the specified limit, and be responsible for its heating bills.
In South Carolina, LIHEAP provides home energy assistance to help eligible low-income households meet their home heating and cooling needs, which could include utility bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, and weatherization and energy-related home repairs. Once the income eligibility criteria are established, vulnerable households, which include families with members who are elderly, disabled, have children age 5 or younger, and with income at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Levels.