Older adults are counting their victories from Washington’s legislative session this year. Wins include funding to help adults on Medicaid purchase hearing aids, a boost in the personal-needs allowance for Social Security recipients, and progress on the senior property tax exemption. Comments from Cathy MacCaul, advocacy director, AARP Washington.
Older Washingtonians’ pocketbooks got some much-needed relief this legislative session. A-A-R-P Washington says lawmakers’ support of three bills in particular are going to help seniors get by. The Legislature has devoted one million dollars to reinstate hearing-aid support for adults on Medicaid. Since 2011, Medicaid patients have had to pay for them with their own money – and the average cost is more than 23-hundred dollars per device. Cathy MacCaul with A-A-R-P Washington says one of the most important victories is a boost to the personal-needs allowance, which helps care facility residents on Social Security pay for things such as clothing and toiletries, and is currently 58 dollars a month.
“We just felt like that was just not right, and so we were pleased to, last year, get a COLA so that they will adjust with the cost of living. And then, additionally, that the new personal-needs allowance amount is now $70 across all care settings.”
A property-tax bill aimed at relieving financial stress for older homeowners passed this session as well. It exempts older adults, people with disabilities and veterans from local property-tax levies.
While MacCaul was pleased to see some progress on property taxes, she says there’s more work to be done as the state booms economically and some seniors are pushed out of their homes by rising costs. She says A-A-R-P Washington will be back in the 2019 session to push for more improvements.
“Seniors should not be economically burdened by increasing property taxes, and we want to look for a way to create uniformity in the income eligibility so that more seniors can access the senior property-tax exemption.”
MacCaul says there was some bonus legislation that eliminates fees for consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit. This comes in the wake of last year’s Equifax data breach. She says those fees were a burden especially for older Americans who wanted to protect their identities but didn’t have the financial means to do so.