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What the budget cuts mean for NJ Seniors

We are sure you’ve heard all about the proposed budget cuts from Gov. Christie for Fiscal Year 2011. What you may be wondering is how does this affect me? You may ask what it all means to you, your children, your parents, or your community?

NJFA has been looking at the proposed budget and doing some research with some of our stakeholders. What we’ve found is that there will be some significant impact for NJ’s seniors. Especially for those most vulnerable, who may already be living on the edge.

Some of you know that in 2009 we advocated, along with many others, for the change in the eligibility level for the NJ Senior Property Tax Freeze program, making the requirement for time you’ve lived in your home to 1 year instead of 3 years. It was disappointing to learn that among the cuts was a freeze on Senior Freeze (also known as Property Tax Reimbursement Program). In the proposed budget those eligible would not receive a property tax reimbursement in 2011. The average reimbursement payment for this program is $1042. So, NJ’s seniors can add that to their cost of living for 2011.

Another cut that is going to add to a NJ senior’s expenses is the increase in co-payments for PAAD. Those who participate in this program do so to save money on medications, because they have limited income. The proposed increase in co-payments for brand name drugs will go from $7 to $15, When you factor in the deductible of $310 a year this will mean another $430 a year added to their cost of living.

Cost of living for a single elder renter in NJ according the NJ Elder Index =$25,941.

Add on the $1042 they won’t receive from the Senior Freeze program  =$26,983

Add on the $430 due to increased PAAD co-pays/deductible  = $27,413

Will there be some safety net or increase to another program such as senior housing to help offset this increase to the NJ senior’s cost of living?

Do you know how much you need to retire in New Jersey?

A recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that 43% of workers say they have less than $10,000 in savings. The annual survey, Retirement Confidence Survey, included 1,153 respondents age 25 and older who were employed or retired. 27% indicated they had less than $1,000 in savings. On top of that 24% reported that they had to delay retirement. The survey did not account of the value of homes or defined-benefit pension programs.

They also found that only 69% of workers have reported saving for retirement. Research Director and co-author of the survey, Jack VanDerhei stated that the current economic situation is not the only factor, but that people don’t plan soon enough. The survey also reveals that only 46% of respondents attempted to calculate how much money they’d need in retirement, meaning over half of the respondents have not even begun calculating what they’ll need to retire.

 Planning for retirement sooner rather than later seems like a good idea. But where do you start? It can be a difficult and overwhelming task. You may need to consult a financial planner, but you can also start by looking at the NJ-Elder Economic Security Index.

The NJ Elder Index can help to determine how much an individual will need to retire in your community. This is because the Index shows the cost of living for someone over 65 in all 21 counties in NJ. It is comprised of the costs of housing, food, transportation, healthcare and a miscellaneous category. The Index also reflects the expenses of renting versus owning a home and also the difference in having mortgage or not. The data is also shown for singles as well as couples in each county.

The Statewide Index shows that a single renter in New Jersey needs $25,941 to meet their basic expenses, while a single homeowner with a mortgage would need $33,570. Some findings may point to key elements for retirement planning. Notably, those 65 and over with a mortgage could be paying twice as much as someone who does not have a mortgage. Housing is the biggest expense in an elder’s budget with healthcare being a close second.

An important contact for Seniors to learn about local resources is their county Office on Aging. To find the Office on Aging in your county visit, http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html

Knowing what some of the costs are can help, but certainly the recent difficult economy has had an impact on the ability to save for retirement. Many New Jerseyans are struggling to make ends meet, let alone save for the future.

To view information from New Jersey Elder Economic Security Index follow the links below. If you have questions or need more information, contact us at office@njfoundationforaging.org or 609-421-0206.

Elder Index

Policy Brief

County Fact Sheets

Food Hardship, Do you have enough?

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) recently released their analysis of survey data collected in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. ¬†In the breakdown of state data, the survey reveals that the highest rates of “food hardship” happen to be in the Southern parts of our country. When it comes to New Jersey’s congressional districts, the 10th district comes in at number 9 out of 436 districts. This was the highest by far compared to all other New Jersey congressional districts. The 10th district consists of towns in Essex, Hudson and Union county. Mostly, the 10th District is made up of Essex county towns such as Orange, West Orange, East Orange, South Orange, parts of Newark and parts of Montclair. The representative for NJ‚Äôs 10th Congressional District is Donald Payne.

With the New Jersey Elder Economic Security Index, we found that food was 11% of an elder’s budget. What that breaks down to is a monthly average of $234 spent of food for a single elder and $430 for a couple. Housing and healthcare are the highest costs for those 65 and over in NJ. However, programs like SNAP (Food Stamps) and Farmers Market Coupons, can help to save seniors a little money in one area (food costs) so that they aren’t deciding between paying their rent or mortgage versus eating. The FRAC study really highlights what we already now, many people in New Jersey (and throughout the country) don’t have a sufficient income to cover the necessities.

If you or someone you know need assistance, please contact your County Office on Aging, you can find a list at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html  or call the Food Stamp Hotline at 1-800-687-9512 or on the web at  http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/foodstamps/ .

To view the entire FRAC report visit: http://www.frac.org/pdf/food_hardship_report_2010.pdf but here are some more national highlights and figures from the report:

The survey asked more than 530,000 people if in the past 12 months they were unable to buy enough food for themselves or their families. FRAC’s analysis provides a percentage of “food hardship” for the nation, states, Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) and congressional districts. The data is from 2008 and 2009. Nationally, the survey shows that many people began having difficulty purchasing food for themselves and their families in mid-2008. The number of respondents that stated they did not have enough food jumped from 16.3% in the first quarter of 2008 to 19.5% in the last quarter of 2008. This coincides with the rise of the unemployment rate nationally, which was 6.9% in November of 2008. At that time food prices were also on the rise. By the fourth quarter of 2009 the rate of “food hardship” dropped to 18.5%, the report suggests this was due to falling food prices and by an increase in support programs such as SNAP (food stamps) which received a boost to match the increased enrollment as well as an additional boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Despite the drop, the reports writers caution the reader that this is not the best news; it still means that 1 out of 5 Americans does not have enough food.

When it came to ranking the 436 congressional districts in the US, a rank¬† of #1 means the highest food hardship rate, but again the report warns us that a ranking of 300th or 400th is still not good news, because the data really shows that food hardship is an overwhelming problem in our great nation. The writers go a step further to challenge congress to act on this national problem, stating it is a problem that is “demanding a solution”.