Remember the FAFSA? Years ago, many of our parents burned the midnight oil submitting this multi-page financial aid application. The goal? Scholarships and grants for us. Today if your aging parent is seeking low-income senior housing, you could be facing a "mini" FAFSA.
Once you've chosen a community offering subsidized senior housing or retirement living, your parent will receive an application. Similar to FAFSA, but simpler, this document "proves" that your parent's income meets the community's limits, which are based on a percentage of the average income in that county. In King County, where Seattle is located, a single person can have income no higher than $36,000 for most programs, and $41,100 for a couple.
Most seniors I work with at Evergreen Court Retirement Community ask their adult children to help with the application. They helped you with the FAFSA; now it's your turn.
Some commonly asked questions:
1. What is the application process? A representative from the community will give you and/or your parent the paperwork and explain how to complete it. When you've finished, you'll have a second meeting to go over it and check documentation. The community sends the package to a third-party compliance officer, to double-check the numbers and determine eligibility.
2. Do assets count? Assets such as brokerage accounts, money market accounts, CD's, homes, real estate, etc., must be declared, and documented by presenting the most recent statement. For a home not yet sold, the county assessor's last assessment statement will prove its value. In computing total income, the compliance officer looks at the income (or potential income) generated from the assets and adds it to the monthly income. For more specifics, consult the manager or marketing director of the community you're looking into.
2. What other items need to be submitted? A driver's license or ID card, provides proof of age. Other documents: Pension statements and a Social Security benefit letter, which the agency sends to all recipients in December of each year. You'll look at the top line for the gross monthly amount, before Medicare is taken out.
3. What about bank accounts? All must be declared. For checking accounts, six months of statements may be required. For savings and money market accounts, the most recent statement is sufficient.
Does that sound daunting? The process may be a bit grueling, but the payoff makes it worthwhile. Often seniors can save $500 a month or more over market rate rent by opting for subsidized senior housing. For help in locating options, contact Eldercare Locator.