Senior citizens often are the most at-risk demographic for excessive debt because they tend to rely on a fixed income, which might not leave room for unplanned expenses, such as medical bills. Although dozens of programs exist to help seniors pay for expenses, rarely does any organization offer grants specifically to pay off old debt.
Despite what hundreds of websites might tell you, the federal government does not offer grants to senior citizens to pay off debt. The government does not hand out grants for personal expenses because it would not be fair to other taxpayers. State and federal governments may offer assistance to seniors but never in the form of a direct grant. Companies that claim to get seniors a debt-relief grant might try to steal money from them, or worse, their sensitive information.
Local charities and nonprofit organizations are the most likely source of a grant to help pay the bills of a senior citizen. The Patient Advocate Foundation, for instance, may help a senior with excessive medical debt. Some charities help with any type of bills. Modest Needs, for example, awards up to $1,000 in grants, raised by money from online donations, to help with emergency needs.
Alternative to Grants
A grant to pay off personal expenses is an unlikely option for most seniors, or the grant might not be enough to pay off all of the senior's debts. Instead, the senior should contact the lender about a settlement option or other help. The creditor might accept a partial payment if he thinks he could get nothing if he tries to collect the entire amount. The senior could tap existing assets, such as a loan against her home or cashing a life insurance plan. If the senior has no assets, it might be worth the risk to ignore the debt. Seniors often become "judgment proof," because they have no assets that a creditor could garnish, suggests Aleksandra Todorova of Smart Money.
Seniors should seek a debt specialist from a credit counselor approved by a nonprofit organization, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Bankruptcy might be the best option, or the counselor might be able negotiate lower monthly payments and/or interest rates. However, the senior must look at his potential future bills. An option like bankruptcy might be a temporary solution to a long-term problem, such as medical bills accrued due to a chronic medical condition. Some charitable organizations might be able to help with future bills and the federal government helps low-income individuals with bills. USA.gov is the best resource for finding government assistance for personal expenses, such as rent and sustenance.
Russell Huebsch has written freelance articles covering a range of topics from basketball to politics in print and online publications. He graduated from Baylor University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.