LifePath gets $125K grant to facilitate benefits enrollment

LifePath’s entrance on the north side of the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street.

LifePath’s entrance on the north side of the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Yuhas

Yuhas

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-14-2024 3:57 PM

GREENFIELD — With a $125,000 grant from the National Council on Aging, LifePath is looking to help folks in Franklin and Hampshire counties, as well as the North Quabbin region, get past the complex forms and eligibility requirements for numerous benefits programs.

The Greenfield-based nonprofit is in the process of establishing a benefits enrollment center to help low-income older adults and adults with disabilities access a variety of benefit programs, including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the state’s energy assistance program, among others.

In the next month or so, folks will be able to reach out to LifePath if they need help filling out forms or if they have questions about what they are eligible for, as the nonprofit brings on additional staff and offers additional volunteer training through the grant.

“This grant allows us to have dedicated staff who are focused on making sure those individuals who are Medicare-eligible are able to tap into all the resources that are available to them,” said Diane Robie, LifePath’s director of client services. “It’s challenging to know what benefits you are eligible for, and then completing the forms and gathering the information that is needed is overwhelming, so some people will not continue because of that.”

With the additional staff member — as well as more capacity for training volunteers — LifePath is looking to cast a wide net on the region to help people apply for benefits. The most notable aspect of this program, Robie said, is the organization will offer home visits when assisting people.

“What makes this program unique is the ability to do those home visits. … This really expands our ability to do that,” Robie said.

On top of helping people fill out applications, Robie said some programs, such as the one for Medicare Savings, have experienced changes in recent years and the benefits enrollment center staff can help people learn about new opportunities.

“We want to make sure people are aware of those changes and taking advantage,” Robie said.

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In a region where 23% of residents are 65 years old or older and 30% of the population is 200% below the federal poverty level, Robie said this type of assistance is a “huge need.”

“We are incredibly grateful to the National Council on Aging and [Administration for Community Living] for this grant, which will allow us to expand our Benefits Counseling program and provide critical support to underserved elders in our community,” LifePath Executive Director Gary Yuhas said in a statement. “This funding will enable them to access the benefits they need to maintain independence and improve their quality of life.”

As the program kicks off, LifePath is aiming to enroll 400 people in one to two benefits programs over the next year and a half. The organization will work with 2020 census data, as well as the state’s Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone (SHINE) program to help identify and enroll those who are eligible.

“We’re hiring now, so our hope is [to start] within the next month, but people could call now because we have some folks who are on staff and can assist,” Robie noted, adding that LifePath hopes to bring new programs to the area. “When people are applying for one benefit, they may automatically be enrolled in other benefits.”

For more information about LifePath or help applying for benefits programs, visit its website at lifepathma.org or call 413-773-5555.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.