By Frances Liu, Vice President, Citi Community Development
Katie Krumpter is a seasoned financial counselor who has been providing financial advice and coaching to New Yorkers for more than 20 years. As a certified financial planner, she has met with hundreds of people to support them in improving their financial lives and economic stability. Over the years, she’s also heard from people with disabilities who believe they cannot work without losing the disability benefits and health insurance they rely on.
That belief is incorrect – many people with disabilities are able to maintain employment and access to their benefits. Nevertheless, Katie has seen firsthand that people with disabilities often lead intricate financial lives and face a unique set of challenges when trying to obtain reliable financial guidance. For people with disabilities, it is vital to carefully manage incomes against expenses, including medical costs, health insurance, durable medical equipment, home modifications, and accessible transportation. Also, many benefits include limits on assets and income levels that can result in the loss of life-sustaining services and supports. National data shows that people with disabilities are almost three times more likely than those without disabilities to experience extreme difficulty paying bills, and are almost twice as likely to skip medical treatments due to cost.
According to the United States Census Bureau, only one in five New Yorkers with disabilities are employed. Yet when people with disabilities consider employment opportunities, critical questions such as, “How will employment affect my disability benefits, supports and services?” are too often met with confusing and contradictory advice. While many people with disabilities are actively participating in the workforce, there is a lack of clear guidance to help them navigate often complex public benefit and healthcare programs. For financial counselors like Katie, additional training on public benefits can help counselors provide clear information and reliable advice to people with disabilities so they can make informed financial decisions and build stronger financial futures.
To support the financial resilience of people with disabilities, Citi Community Development is collaborating with the City of New York and National Disability Institute (NDI) on EmpoweredNYC. This multi-prong initiative is developing and delivering enhanced counseling services to advance the financial stability of people with disabilities, as well as new trainings for nonprofit and municipal service providers on how to connect people with disabilities with the best information, services, and programs to meet their financial needs. Led by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment in partnership with Citi, NDI, NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, EmpoweredNYC aims to provide clear and accurate information to empower people with disabilities to make sound financial decisions.
This summer, EmpoweredNYC organized five community input sessions–one in each NYC borough–to hear directly from people with disabilities about their financial concerns, and to gather input on what financial counseling services could and should look like to be effective. Community members shared their financial realities, repeatedly citing the high cost of housing and healthcare and their determination to achieve financial stability. Many who receive public benefits such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) spoke of the complicated benefit eligibility criteria that fueled confusion and, at times, concern about the risks of losing these critical supports.
The community input sessions affirmed the need for trusted financial counselors to offer nuanced financial guidance to New Yorkers with disabilities and their families that could help them think through and plan for employment opportunities, manage budgets, reduce debt, improve credit, and save – often while managing a range of public benefits. EmpoweredNYC seeks to do just this.
Katie is now one of eight financial counselors from two NYC-based nonprofits, New York Legal Assistance Group (or NYLAG, where Katie works) and Ariva, who have received more than 60 hours of additional training focused on disability benefit programs and how to integrate knowledge of these programs in financial counseling sessions. For Katie, this training has given her greater expertise to help people with disabilities fully understand their financial situations and opportunities. She and the EmpoweredNYC counselors look forward to conducting 2,700 financial counseling sessions with New Yorkers with disabilities and their families throughout the year.
Beginning last month, these counselors are now available for free, one-on-one, and confidential financial coaching. New Yorkers with disabilities and their families can book appointments with trained EmpoweredNYC financial counselors.
By launching financial counseling services that better meet the needs of New Yorkers with disabilities across all five boroughs, EmpoweredNYC is expanding financial inclusion for people with disabilities and their families.
Note: This piece originally appeared on the Citi Blog on January 7, 2019.