Seniors making less than 80% of the median family income in Washington are considered low income, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Seniors making less than 50% of the median family income in an area are considered very low income. In Washington, the median household income is $82,400 and the per capita income is $43,817, according to the 2021 U.S. Census. This means that an annual household income of under $65,920 or an annual per capita income of $35,053 for a single-person household would classify a senior as low income. An annual household income of $41,200 or an annual per capita income of $32,960 for a single-person household would be considered very low income.

Low-income seniors in Washington have access to several resources that provide financial assistance for living expenses and health care, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. Other programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and HUD’s Section 202 program provide assistance for food and housing. However, these programs often have income eligibility limits lower than what is considered low income in Washington.

Medicaid in Washington

Medicaid provides health care to very low-income seniors in Washington through Apple Health. Apple Health offers assistance with Medicare premiums, long-term care needs and coverage for the elderly or disabled. To qualify, a single-person household must make less than $18,075 before taxes or less than $24,353 before taxes for a two-person household. The applicant must also be blind, disabled, 65 years or older or care for a child under the age of 18.

Seniors requiring additional support to remain in their homes may qualify for one of several Medicaid waivers through the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program. These waivers provide assistance with activities of daily living, home health care, in-home care and other needs. The Community First Choice waiver offers support for individuals needing a nursing facility level of care by providing long-term services and supports for people living outside of a nursing home. The Washington New Freedom waiver is a consumer-managed program that allows seniors to dictate their service plan and budget to receive services in their home to best meet their own needs. However, this program is currently limited to King and Pierce Counties.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal assistance program that provides seniors with a monthly stipend of cash. This is different from Social Security benefits in that SSI is not dependent upon how much money was paid into Social Security before relying on it. SSI can be paid out in addition to Social Security benefits for those who are eligible. To qualify for SSI, applicants must be 65 or older or disabled and have a limited income and limited resources.