Benefits Data Trust (BDT) is a national organization founded in 2005 to help low-income individuals access state and federal aid programs, such as food stamps (SNAP benefits), Medical Assistance, and energy assistance programs. BDT’s model relies on partnerships with federal, state, and local government agencies to identify individuals who are receiving one public benefit and who are, therefore, very likely eligible for other benefits. It then conducts outreach to those individuals, screens them to determine what benefits they are eligible for but not receiving, and assists them in submitting applications. Since its inception in 2005, BDT has submitted more than 430,000 benefit applications on behalf of low- income individuals and families, helping them to secure an estimated $4 billion in benefits.
While BDT assists with enrollment in a number of benefit programs, its primary focus is on increasing access to SNAP benefits for seniors, who have very low rates of participation in the SNAP program. A 2010 study by Mathematica Policy Research found that only 28 percent of Maryland seniors who are eligible for SNAP benefits are receiving them. In addition, Maryland Hunger Solutions reports that Maryland has the eighth highest food insecurity rate among seniors in the nation. Food insecurity among seniors is associated with poor nutrition, as well as a range of other adverse physical and mental health effects.
In 2012, BDT established the Maryland Benefits Center to assist low-income Maryland seniors in accessing public benefits to help them cover the costs of food, heat, and health care. To date, the
Maryland Benefits Center has assisted approximately 11,000 senior households statewide to access a broad range of benefits. With funding from the Abell Foundation and other funders, BDT has partnered with Baltimore City agencies to conduct targeted outreach to senior households in the city, and submitted applications on behalf of almost 1,500 senior households in Baltimore annually. The average value of benefits obtained per household was $1,416 per year -- a nearly 10 percent increase in the average annual income of senior households assisted by BDT, which was just $14,697 last year.