Many senior citizens and people with disabilities find they may need help with activities that once came easily. One such activity is managing their personal finances.
To assist with that, the Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services Board (RRSCB) runs the Protective Money Management Program (PMMP). Lola Walker, volunteer coordinator for all of RRCSB’s programs, described the program at Aging Together in Rappahannock’s Jan 22 meeting at the library.
“The goal of the PMMP is to promote independent living for people who are having difficulty managing their financial affairs,” say Walker. “These are low-income people — we call them clients — who receive disability or social security benefits from the government. We step in and make sure their bills are paid for a roof over their heads, food, heat and telephone.”
Founded in 2009, the program recruits, trains, and supervises volunteers who help their clients establish budgets, pay bills and ensure financial stability. “When a new client is referred to us, a volunteer is assigned to that person. The volunteer and I meet with the client to discuss their needs and develop a budget for them.” RRCSB sets up a bank account where the clients’ benefit funds are deposited. All bills go directly to the volunteer who pays them and gives the client an allowance for personal incidentals. At the end of every month, the volunteer assembles statements and receipts, which RRCSB then collects at the end of every year.
Walker told the group that RRCSB is actively looking for volunteers, especially for Culpeper, Orange, and Madison counties. Sallie Morgan, chair of the regional Aging Together coalition, described the kinds of people they recruit to work with clients. “We look for individuals who know how to bank and pay bills online, and they have to be very organized,” she said. “But they also have to have people skills. Working with clients can be challenging, particularly if a client doesn’t communicate well. When the volunteer-client relationship is a good fit, it becomes a close relationship.”
Volunteers are rigorously vetted before they are accepted into the program. “We run checks on potential volunteers, as if they were applying for a job,” said Walker. Applicant screening includes drug testing, fingerprinting and checking driving records. They then go through a training and orientation program. Once they are accepted, the volunteers are designated by the Social Security Administration as “representative payees,” which means they can manage clients’ finances.
Morgan said that the recruitment effort is being covered by the grant from the Family and Children’s Trust (FACT) Fund of Virginia recently awarded to Aging Together to address elder fiscal abuse in the five-county region of Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock.