Pritzker administration to expand benefit opportunities to more seniors in 2020

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Adjustments made in income eligibility allow more people to qualify for benefits

information provided by the Office of the Governor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (January 1, 2020) – Starting January 1, 2020, the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) will implement new annual income limits, making it possible for more individuals to qualify for the Secretary of State License Plate Discount, Seniors Ride Free Transit Benefit, and Persons with Disabilities Free Transit Ride.

“Taking care of Illinois’ most vulnerable seniors is at the core of our values, and working with the General Assembly, we expanded services to even more vulnerable older adults,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m proud that Illinois is moving forward and restoring key services, and assistance for seniors means that they won’t be forgotten.”

Specifically, as part of the bipartisan budget implementation bill, SB 1814, which was passed in May by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Pritzker in June, it will now be easier for some to receive benefits from the Benefit Access Program, the formal name of the program that includes the Secretary of State License Plate Discount, Seniors Ride Free Transit Benefit, and Persons with Disabilities Free Transit Ride. Any application submitted January 1, 2020, through April 15, 2020, will continue to use 2018 income but will be subjected to the new income limits. Applications submitted on or after April 16, 2020, must use 2019 income to file. Therefore, if an applicant applied in 2019 and was denied based on 2018 income using the current income limits, they will be afforded an opportunity to re-apply. Once approved, benefits are valid for two years.

The increase in income eligibility limitations reflects the annual cost of living adjustment in Social Security and supplemental security income benefits. The average annual Social Security income in Illinois is $17,470/year. Without Social Security, it is estimated that an additional 36% of older Illinoisans would fall into poverty. There has not been an increase in income eligibility limitations in the Benefit Access Program since 2010.

In Fiscal Year 2019, the department received over 126,180 applications, compared to 75,288 applications in 2006, which was the first year IDoA had made the application available online.

To be determined eligible for these benefits, individuals must submit a Benefit Access Application online. Visit our website, www.illinois.gov/aging/, and click on the “Benefit Access” tab near the top. Paper applications are not available. Individuals who don’t have access to a computer are encouraged to contact their local Area Agency on Aging, visit a local senior center, public library, or community center. For assistance locating your Area Agency on Aging or a local senior center, call the IDoA Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 (hearing impaired call 1-888-206-1327).