We all want to stay in the comfort of our own home and age in place. As we get older, walking and climbing the stairs can be difficult.
Data shows that home renovations – handrails, chair lifts for stairs or roll-in showers— can keep you safely in your home or apartment, active in the community and out of a nursing home. Falls are the leading cause of injury and hospitalization for people over 65. Many go from the hospital to the nursing home and never make it back home. The top two fears of most seniors is losing their independence (26 percent) and going to a nursing home (13 percent).
Home modifications can be a little pricey on a fixed income. That’s why the Rhode Island Livable Home Modification Program is so important for our seniors and those living with disabilities. Under this program, the state reimburses you 50 percent of the total cost of your home modification, up to $5,000. For the past two years, I’ve cosponsored legislation (with Rep. Joseph McNamara) to make this program permanent.
There is $250,000 in this year’s budget for these projects. So far only 10 people have taken advantage of it, so another 40 to 50 projects are still out there. The deadline to access this money is June 30.
Hopefully, if you’re planning an accessibility project such as an indoor chair lift, outdoor ramps or accessible bathrooms, you’ll apply. Once you fill out the application, you’ll know in 2 to 3 business days if your project qualifies. Once the Certificate of Approval has been issued, you then hire your contractor to do the work, pay the contractor, and then submit the bill to Governor’s Commission on Disabilities for 50 percent payment, up to $5,000. So if your project costs $6,000, you’ll be reimbursed $3,000. If you’re project is $12,000 you’ll receive $5,000, the maximum available.
Once you submit all the necessary documents for the modification project, you will be reimbursed within 30 days. If you’re a renter, you will need owner approval to modify the apartment and the modification must stay in place for 10 years.
I’ve been visiting the Jamestown Senior Center and Middletown Senior Center telling constituents about this program. I even brought Allysa Gleason to the Middletown Senior Center so people could see the “face” of the person processing these applications. Alyssa is the coordinator for the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, which administers the grant program (Alyssa.Gleason@gcd.ri.gov or 462-0103).
The income eligibility is pretty high and does not include your savings. So if you have an annual income of $78,700 or less, you qualify. If you and one dependent have a household income of $89,950, you qualify.
So please take advantage of the money that is in the state budget for people 65+ or those with disabilities to retrofit your home or apartment. We need you in our community!
Rep. Deborah Ruggiero is the chair of Small Business Committee and serves on the House Finance Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-0444