By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer
Older adults might not have as much disposable income available to them as they did when they were younger. Therefore, it’s important to take advantage of any benefits that are available. In Illinois, there are three benefits, two of which are available to older adults, that can help make transport more accessible.
The Illinois Benefit Access Program is split into three key areas:
- The Seniors Ride Free Transit Benefit (for those 65 or older)
- The Persons with Disabilities Free Transit Ride (for adults who haven’t yet reached 65 but who are disabled)
- The Secretary of State License Plate Discount
Eligibility for the Benefit Access Program
Eligibility for all of these benefits listed is based on age, residency, income, and disability. To qualify, a person must meet the following criteria.
To be eligible for the Benefit Access Program, a person must be:
- 65 years of age or older before January 1 of the current year; or
- 65 years of age this year; or
- 16 years of age or older before January 1 of the current year and qualify as disabled.
You must live in Illinois when you file your application.
The total income last year of the qualifying person (together with spouse, if there is one) must be as follows, depending on how many people live in your home.
- For households containing one person, the total income must be less than $33,562.
- For households containing two persons, the total income must be less than $44,533.
- For households containing three or more persons, the total income must be less than $55,500.
It is important to note that you must include your spouse’s income if you are married and were living together on December 31 of the previous year.
To qualify as disabled, a person must be at least 16 years of age prior to January 1 of the current year and be determined totally and permanently disabled (as defined by program requirements) prior to January 1 of the current year.
How to make your application
Applications can only be made via the Internet, and no paper applications are accepted. To make your claim, you can CLICK HERE to head to this link.
How long will the process take?
The process to check your claim can take anything up to eight weeks, depending on the requested documentation. Once you have made a claim, you can CLICK HERE to check its status after 48 hours.
How t0 get help with making an online application
If you need help making your application, you can contact one of the Senior Health Assistance Offices or an Area Agency on Aging. There are also toll-free numbers and an email address you can use for further information. All the details for the offices, phone numbers, and email addresses are available here.
What happens if the application is approved?
You can check the status of the application at any time by going to the website. (CLICK HERE to access the link.) If your application is approved, you can print a certificate of eligibility and this will need to be taken to your local transport authority or Secretary of State’s Office.
If you are making an application for a license plate discount, you will need to wait 10 business days from the date of the application for it to be available. If, instead, you requested the ride free benefit, you will need to contact your local public transport system for further information.
While this application might take a little time to complete, it’s well worth it for the benefits available to those who are eligible. If you know an older adult who you think might meet the criteria for the Benefit Access Program in Illinois, please share this article and pass this information on to them. If they have concerns about making the application online, then encourage them to reach out for assistance, as it will give them more flexibility to travel, connect with friends, and attend classes or fun activities.
This information is courtesy of the Illinois Department of Aging. Visit their website for further details, as well as how to access further help to apply for these benefits.