Older Washingtonians get legislative wins this session

Older Washingtonians’ pocketbooks got some much-needed relief in the legislative session that wrapped up earlier this month.

AARP Washington says lawmakers’ support of three bills in particular is going to help seniors get by.

The Legislature devoted $1 million to reinstate hearing aid support for adults on Medicaid. Since 2011, Medicaid patients have had to pay for hearing aids with their own money — and the average cost is more than $2,300 per device.

Cathy MacCaul, advocacy director for AARP Washington, says one of the most important victories is a boost to the personal-needs allowance that helps Social Security recipients living in care facilities pay for things such as clothing and toiletries.

That allowance is currently $58 a month.

“We just felt like that was just not right,” MacCaul says, “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 Washington’s booming economy leads to some seniors being pushed out of their homes by rising costs. MacCaul says AARP 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,” she says.

MacCaul also applauded some legislation eliminating fees for consumers who 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.

— By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service (WA)

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