Are Seniors Entitled to Free Food?

(WSVN) - When COVID hit, many elderly people smartly decided to stay home to not go out and contract the disease. Food programs then started delivering meals for them to eat, but one woman who can’t leave her house got dropped from the food service, and that’s when her family called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

2020 started off OK for Barbara and her parents. Then COVID hit.

In March, Barbara lost her job. In April, her father passed away.

Barbara Colegrove: “I am absolutely overwhelmed.”

As an only child, Barbara was left to look after her 84-year-old mother, and that’s when she heard about Miami-Dade County’s emergency food program.

Barbara Colegrove: “It’s meals for the elderly, and if I was not able to come and provide for her or help her out, then at least she had that. One less thing to worry about.”

Once a week, the county delivered seven frozen dinners to Aracelia, and she loved it.

Aracelia Almeria (translation of): “Yes, it was of great help.”

Barbara Colegrove: “This was a blessing.”

Then suddenly, the meals stopped showing up.

Barbara Colegrove: “Claimed that the delivery driver called the phone and no one answered. She’s been disqualified from the program, and there’s nothing they can do.”

Barbara said they never got a call about a delivery.

A year ago she would have handled this problem, but this year, after COVID, losing her job, burying her father, worrying about her mother, it’s just all too much for her.

Barbara Colegrove: “A little frustrated, and I’m sad, going through the loss of my father, and now having to deal with this worry. It’s very hard.”

And so Barbara called Help Me Howard with the question: the food is supplied by the county for free. If you are a senior citizen, legally, are you entitled to it.

Howard, you are up.

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “You can dance on a legal pin about whether a senior citizen is entitled to this emergency government program that supplies one meal a day, but we are talking about food, and if an elderly person needs it, give it to them, whether they answered their phone or not.”

Another question about an older relative. The governor lifted the order barring visitors from nursing homes, but South Floridians are telling us they still can’t get into the nursing home to see their parents. Can the facility block them?

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes. Part of the governor’s order lays out rules that have to be followed before visitors are allowed in. If the nursing home can’t meet those standards, they cannot let visitors in.”

This one is a little morbid, but it’s life today. A cemetery employee wants to know if he has the right to know if a body he is lowering into the ground died of the coronavirus.

Howard Finkelstein: “No. Since most COVID victims are in a body bag in a sealed casket, you are not in any danger, and you have no right to be told what the person died of.”

She went to urgent care for a problem, and while she was there, they tested her for COVID. She got a bill for that, and she thought COVID tests were free. Are they?

Howard Finkelstein: “If you have insurance, they pay, but otherwise it depends on where you get the test. Some places are free, and some are not. Make sure you ask before you go.”

Aracelia Almeria (translation of): “They brought it to me very fast.”

Give Miami-Dade all the credit. We contacted the emergency meals service in the morning. That afternoon, they delivered the meals to Aracelia and added some fresh fruit and vegetables for her.

Aracelia Almeria (translation of): “You were the ones who did the work, and I need to tell you, I’m very thankful for what you did for me.”

Howard Finkelstein: “The Miami-Dade meals programs is funded by tax money, so when you say, ‘Where do all my taxes go?’ at least you know some of it is being well spent.”

A half-baked problem burning you up? Hungry for someone to cook up a solution? Let us take a bite out of it, ’cause our plate is never too full to help.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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