By Dean Urdahl
District 18B, State Representative
For some people, getting the most out of your budget is not just a good idea, it is a necessity. A constituent emailed me a few weeks ago, asking what benefits are out there for her mother, an elderly Minnesotan on a fixed income. Her case provides good examples about what benefits and aid programs exist for low-income residents.
If you are in the same situation, here is a list of potential benefits. As always, if you have any questions regarding eligibility or the details of a program, I ask you to please call my office at 651-296-4344. I will be happy to help you or put you in contact with the appropriate person to answer your questions.
Low-income Minnesotans over age 65 can qualify to exclude a certain amount of income from taxation, regardless of how they earned the income. The amount of income you can exclude varies, but can reach $18,000 if a husband and wife both qualify.
The Homeowner’s Property Tax Refund is also available to seniors who own their home or rent. This is a “needs based” refund. The higher your property taxes are in comparison to your total income, the higher your rebate. This is especially helpful to seniors whose homes saw their property taxes rise along with their home values during the housing boom of the last 10 years or so.
Seniors can also use a program called the Senior Citizens Property Tax Deferral Program. If their income is less than $60,000, they may be allowed to defer a portion of their homestead property taxes until a later time. The program is designed to help senior citizens with high property taxes stay in their homes.
The state has a special tax helpline set up at 651-296-3781 to assist you with these programs.
Tax savings aren’t the only way to stretch your income. We expect this winter to bring higher heating costs, but by making sure your windows and doorways are sealed properly, you can save yourself a lot of money.
Seniors can also save income on prescription drugs with the new Medicare prescription drug program. All Medicare participants will be eligible for what is called Medicare Part D. You can enroll beginning November 15 and until May 15, 2006. After that, there will be an open enrollment period every November. Benefits begin January 1, 2006. If you are in Medicare, you should have received a pamphlet called “Medicare and You” that laid out the program. If you did not, call 1-800-MEDICARE to request one or talk with someone on the phone who can answer your questions.
None of the programs I mentioned are intended to foster a dependence on government. What I hope they can do for you is help you enough to maintain your own independence. I hope you find the information helpful and please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.