Missouri’s aging population is expected to rise very quickly over the next decade, mirroring a historic demographic shift occurring across the United States. Currently, one in four Missourians is 60 years of age or older. This trend is projected to continue, with the number of Missourians aged 60 and above soon equaling the number of youth ages 20 and under (23% aged 60+, compared to 24% aged 20 and under).

This demographic shift presents both challenges and opportunities. While many individuals will age with strong health and financial resources, we also know that a growing number of older adults face limited options, fixed incomes, and significant financial challenges due to historic inflation and inadequate safety nets. As individuals age, many require additional support to maintain the independence they have enjoyed throughout their lives.

Governor Parson’s Executive Order 23-01, signed in January 2023, set the wheels in motion for the creation of the Missouri Master Plan on Aging. This comprehensive plan aims to help reduce age and disability discrimination, eliminate barriers to safe and healthy aging, and enable Missourians to age with dignity. It includes goals related to daily life, family caregivers, housing, long-term services and supports, safety, transportation, and whole person health. The plan emphasizes collaboration, public engagement, and a holistic approach to aging services and support. The conveners of the plan have outlined  seven broad goals to guide its implementation, touching on various aspects of daily life, caregiving, housing, services, safety, transportation, and health. These include:

  1. Daily Life and Employment: The plan aims to provide Missourians with opportunities for employment, recreation, and civic engagement, ensuring they can lead fulfilling lives as they age.
  2. Family Caregivers: Recognizing the vital role of caregivers, the plan seeks to support them with adequate training and resources, benefiting both the caregiver and the care recipient.
  3. Housing and Aging in Place: Enabling individuals to age in their chosen environment with dignity and independence is a central focus, promoting safe and healthy living arrangements.
  4. Long-Term Services and Supports: The plan emphasizes access to information and a range of services to help individuals stay in their homes as long as they wish, with options for institutional care if needed.
  5. Safety and Security: Education and resources will be provided to protect against abuse, neglect, and exploitation, ensuring financial security and peace of mind for older Missourians.
  6. Transportation and Mobility: Access to reliable transportation is crucial for older adults to maintain their independence and access necessary services and activities.
  7. Whole Person Health: The plan emphasizes holistic health care services that enable individuals to live safely and independently as they age.

Our Affordable Housing Coalition’s work aligns closely with the Housing and Aging in Place subcommittee’s recommendations. While the full recommendations span an 11-page document, we’ll highlight a few key points here.

One important recommendation calls for increased funding for affordable housing services and development, particularly for home maintenance, modifications, and repairs. This can be achieved by raising the funding mechanism for the Missouri Housing Trust Fund (MHTF), created by the State Legislature in 1994 to meet the housing needs of very low-income families and individuals. Empower Missouri helped to pass that legislation, knowing what a benefit a state HTF would be to low income families.

Currently, the MHTF is supported by a $3 recording fee on all deed transfer documents filed in Missouri, generating an estimated $3,400,000 during FY 2023. However, this falls short (about 3 times short) of funding requests from nonprofits working on affordable housing and homelessness prevention, especially in rural areas often overlooked by federal funding. Rural communities have a larger share of elderly residents compared to urban areas (17.5% vs. 13.8% in urban areas). Empower Missouri supports SB 1184, aiming to increase the MHTF funding mechanism from $3 to a $9 recording fee to meet the growing need for affordable housing preservation, development, and housing and homeless prevention services.

Increased MHTF funding could also support other critical initiatives, including securing legal representation for households facing evictions. Recent data shows that tenants are represented in court only 4% of the time, compared to 83% for landlords. Empower Missouri advocates for the passage of Tenants Right to Counsel at the regional and state level to guarantee legal representation for any renter facing eviction. Jurisdictions that have implemented Right to Counsel, such as Kansas City, have seen significant reductions in eviction rates, falling from 99% down to 20% after only 3 months after implementation.

Ensuring legal representation for elderly and disabled individuals facing eviction is more important than ever at this juncture. These populations are particularly vulnerable to homelessness due to increasing housing costs, health issues, and medical expenses, among other factors. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, older adults are the fastest-growing age group experiencing homelessness, and the number of older adults facing homelessness is expected to triple by 2030.

Another key recommendation is bringing Missouri’s state level housing discrimination statutes into compliance with the National Fair Housing Act to improve protections for communities facing discrimination. Passage of HB 2039, the Missouri Fair Housing Act, would achieve this and restore federal funding for effective enforcement of these statutes.

Additionally, Empower Missouri supports recommendations from the Housing and Aging in Place subcommittee to make it easier for individuals to access and use housing vouchers. However, HB 2385, which would allow landlords to discriminate against voucher holders without repercussion, opposes these efforts. If passed and signed into law, this bill would result in increased homelessness rates, particularly affecting elderly and disabled individuals who more frequently rely on assistance and non-traditional income sources for housing. We encourage everyone that understands the importance of stable housing to sign on to our llamada a la acción urging lawmakers to vote against HB 2385 to protect Missouri families from housing discrimination and reduce homelessness.

In addition to our housing work, Empower Missouri’s Food Security Coalition has focused on multiple nutrition programs and policies that directly affect the health of Missouri’s older population. 

First, Empower Missouri has been advocating for the creation of a Restaurant Meals Program within the SNAP program in Missouri.  The Restaurant Meal Program would allow households containing all elderly, disabled, or homeless individuals the option to redeem their SNAP benefits at private establishments that contract with the Department of Social Services to offer hot meals intended for immediate consumption. This program would help seniors who have a difficult time shopping, cooking and preparing meals for themselves. Currently that bill (Senate Bill 973) has passed through the Senate Progress and Development Committee and is awaiting floor time in the Senate. 

Additionally, Empower Missouri has had multiple conversations with the Department of Social Services about implementing all aspects of the Elderly Simplified Application Project for SNAP. This package of options, allowable through the Federal Nutrition Service, would make the SNAP application simpler and the participation in the program easier to maintain for seniors. Currently, Missouri does participate in a few of the ESAP provisions like extending the recertification period for seniors to 24 months, but there are other provisions that the Department could implement that would help even more. We continue to be in conversation with them about applying for and implementing those changes. 

To further explore the resources available to support aging Missourians living in poverty and potential policy supports we can advocate for here in Missouri, our April Friday Forum will feature speakers from two of our national partners, Dr. Jan Mutchler, Director of the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston, y Archie Roundtree Jr., Staff Attorney with Justice in Aging. Please register now to join us next Friday, April 12th at 12PM on Zoom as we dive deeper into this important topic!

Empower Missouri, as well as many of our partner organizations, will continue to be intricately involved in the creation of this plan and will continue to work on implementing the actions that are laid out once it is completed. If you are interested in working on these issues, reach out to our Coalición de vivienda asequible and our Coalición de seguridad alimentaria Verse envuelto. 

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  1. Kimberly Williamson

    Would like to attend the noontime meeting 4/12. I’m currently struggling with EBT and Medicaid recertification as I’ve been unable to update my mailing address with this state agency. My deadline was 3/31/24 and when the expected application didn’t come in the mail I called Mo health net, had a phone interview and was told to wait 10 days for a paper application. I downloaded and faxed an emergency application for EBT and completed a phone interview on 4/8/24 and was assured $154 would be on my card. This wasn’t done and now the prompt tells me there’s no application on file for me . My state senator’s aid tells me this is quite common. Please contact me with any suggestions; I was advised not to resubmit my application as this might cause confusion.

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