Thousands of elderly in Fresno county qualify as poor

Basic living expenses cost Fresno County seniors almost twice as much as the federal government claims, according to a study released Tuesday.

On average, a Fresno County senior needed $19,407 for necessities in 2009, according to the Elder Economic Security Standard Index. But the federal government says the poverty level for a single adult in the county was $10,830. As many as 36,000 seniors in the county who don't meet the federal standard would qualify as poor under the index.

"Statewide, the federal poverty level just isn't capturing what it truly costs to live in California," said D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto, a UCLA research associate who helped calculate the index for every county in the state.

The federal poverty level -- which is based on the cost of food alone -- is used nationwide to determine income eligibility for many public programs and to allocate funding for programs. The elder index was introduced two years ago as an alternative.

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