Aid cut proposed for aged, disabled
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
About 400 households would no longer get monthly financial assistance through the Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled program under a proposed change in eligibility requirements designed to meet a budget shortfall.
The remaining 950 households in the program would see their benefits reduced by $130 a month for one person or about $177 for a couple.
The changes are set to go into effect June 1.
Under the new plan, a two-person household would get a subsidy to bring their monthly benefits to about $430 a month. Single people in the program would get up to $319 a month.
Even with the proposed changes, the program needs to find another $775,000 to cover payments to people through the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The Department of Human Services, which oversees the program, said the shortfall is because of decreased appropriations.
The program received about $4 million this fiscal year, about half of its appropriation in the previous year. The shortfall is not as bad as those affecting other benefits programs, though, because the number of households receiving the payments has remained fairly steady despite the economic downturn.
Barbara Kim Stanton, state director of AARP Hawai'i, said she is disappointed in the proposed changes to the Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled program, saying it would be another cut to those who can least afford it.
"You're really talking about a group of people in dire need," Stanton said. "This is not the way to balance the budget, on the most vulnerable."
Households eligible for the program are at 48 percent or less of the 2006 federal poverty level. For a family of two, the federal poverty level was $15,180 income in 2006; 48 percent of that is $7,286.
The state is proposing that the eligibility threshold be decreased to 34 percent of the federal poverty level. That means a family of two would have to bring in less than $5,161 a year to qualify, DHS said.
Under the program now, the average payment is $280 a month.
The changes come on the heels of big cuts to general assistance payments — a much larger program that serves 4,983 people and will disburse about $21.3 million to households this fiscal year.
Under that program, the maximum payment for a two-person household is $404 a month, while a single person gets $300 at most.