According to Cornell University Disability Statistics, people with disabilities in Illinois comprise 11 percent of the population, with 20 percent receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Only 39 percent of working-age adults with disabilities are employed and 25 percent live in poverty.
National Disability Institute (NDI) recognizes the need to empower individuals with disabilities to understand and manage their finances through education and training, and envisions a society in which people with disabilities have the same opportunities to achieve financial stability and independence as people without disabilities.
Through collaborations with organizations like the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities (ICDD), NDI innovates to build a better financial future for people with disabilities and their families. An important first step is acknowledging that dependency on public benefits creates a cycle of poverty. A movement from poverty to financial well-being is a new and needed conversation.
As part of the movement, NDI’s work focuses on the following five key strategies to address the financial needs of people with disabilities. The road to a better financial future starts and ends with a goal.
- Benefits Planning and Work Supports – The Social Security Administrations (SSA) offers Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cash benefits to individuals who meet the SSA disability standard. Many people with disabilities who receive SSDI and/or SSI want to work or return to work, but they worry about the effect work may have on benefits. SSA work incentives make it possible for individuals to test their ability to work while they continue to receive some or all of their cash and health benefits. Individuals who receive SSI or SSDI and are working, looking for work or are thinking about working are also eligible for Work Incentives Planning Assistance (WIPA). Each WIPA project has Community Work Incentives Coordinators (CWICs) who provide one-on-one, in-depth counseling on the impact of work on benefits. To learn more, visit ssa.gov/findhelp.
- Employment – There are several types of employment including full-time, part-time, seasonal, self-employment and customized, among others. Established under the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA), American Job Centers (AJCs) provide a full range of assistance to job seekers under one roof. AJCs offer youth and senior employment placement, training certificates, apprenticeships, mock interviews, resume preparation, career counseling, referrals and employment-related services. To learn more, visit org/localhelp/americanjobcenters/find-american-jobcenters.
- Free Tax Preparation Services – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs offer free tax help to qualified individuals who generally make $56,000 or less annually, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their tax returns. To learn more, visit treasury.gov/freetaxprep.
- Financial Education and Financial Coaching – Financial education is the knowledge and skills to understand financial matters. This includes banking services, saving, investment options, credit building and debt management. Financial education curriculums and tools include the following:
- FDIC Money Smart – program to help low- and moderate-income individuals understand basic financial services, develop money management skills and learn how to use banking services effectively: gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart.
- Wells Fargo Hands on Banking® – free program on a variety of financial education topics: org.
- Bank of America and Khan Academy Better Money Habits – free online education tool containing videos that complement existing curriculums, including lessons for people with developmental disabilities: bankofamerica.com/community/en/lessons/financial-independence-first-steps.
- Asset Development – Assets are items or skills that can be turned into cash. Examples include education, work history, home, car, business and savings. Building assets can help an individual get better lending terms from banks, increase community connections and improve their ability to make choices. Asset development focuses on long-term benefits and can improve overall financial stability and quality of life.
Through collaboration, education and engaging people with disabilities in the conversation, we can continue the paradigm shift from dependency to financial well-being.
Please visit the Five Key Strategies to Achieving Financial Wellness webinar archive to learn more.