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National Disability Institute's Washington Insider is a monthly newsletter highlighting key federal policy news that impacts the financial futures and economic empowerment of all people with disabilities. The Washington Insider tracks legislative and policy initiatives gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, specifically in the areas of taxation, asset building and economic development.

 

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August 2014 | Vol. 6, Issue 6
CONTENTS
House Ways and Means Committee Fast Tracks ABLE Act
ODEP/CFPB Memorandum to Help Improve Financial Capability of Workers with Disabilities
Massachusetts Governor Signs “Real Lives Bill” Into Law
California Becomes First State to Recognize Importance of Credit-Building for Underbanked
NDI Celebrates 79 Years of Social Security
Make the Most out of Congress' August Recess
July Employment Profile


 

House Ways and Means Committee Fast Tracks ABLE Act

On July 31, the House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to report H.R. 647, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, out of Committee – one step closer to an up or down vote by the entire U.S. House of Representatives.

If enacted, the ABLE Act, would allow Americans with disabilities and their families or caretakers the opportunity to create a tax-exempt savings account. An ABLE account would function like a 529 savings account. The money set aside in an ABLE account would not count as an asset when calculating Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Medicaid eligibility. Set aside funds can be used toward specific expenses including healthcare, education, housing, transportation, employment support and general welfare.

The bill will better the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities. Or, as Sara Wolff, a self advocate, testified at a recent hearing, “Just because I have Down syndrome, there is no reason it (Down syndrome) should hold me back from my goals of achieving a better life. Because of these outdated laws I am held back from my life… You have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who have disabilities in the U.S.”

National Disability Institute (NDI) agrees with Sara and stands behind the countless people with disabilities and their families looking to save, plan and build a more financially secure future. That is why we applaud the work and progress Congress has made and urge them to move swiftly and pass the ABLE Act prior to the adjournment of the 113th Congress.

To date, the ABLE Act enjoys broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Currently, the bill has 379 House cosponsors and has another 74 cosponsors in the Senate. The House will likely take next steps on the bill after they return from summer recess on Sept. 8.

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ODEP/CFPB Memorandum to Help Improve Financial Capability of Workers with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a memorandum calling on state and local governments, community development organizations, employers and employment groups and disability stakeholders and advocates to help people with disabilities build their own financial futures as an important component toward reaching individual employment goals and participation in the economic mainstream.

NDI, the nation’s first non-profit dedicated exclusively to promoting and improving the financial capability and capacity for all people with disabilities, applauds ODEP and CFPB for their coordinated approach to improving the financial capability of people with disabilities.

In addition to a call to action, the ODEP-CFPB memorandum invites interested individuals to explore and utilize helpful financial tools and services. The memorandum also highlights the important work, in coordination with NDI’s LEAD Center, occurring in American Job Centers in two test cities to connect customers with and without disabilities to the information and services needed to enhance individual financial capability as well as LEAD’s series of free webinars on various topics and strategies to build financial stability.

For more information, and to learn more about the agencies and partners promoting pathways to economic stability for workers and with disabilities, please read the ODEP-CFPB memorandum.

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Massachusetts Governor Signs “Real Lives Bill” Into Law

On August 6th, Governor Deval Patrick (D-Massachusetts) signed into law H. 4237, the Real Lives Bill. Supported by various local, state and national organizations, H. 4237 empowers people with intellectual disabilities to make their own decisions on how and where they choose to live their lives in addition to determining spending allocations for state support services, including employment and residential services, assistive technology, therapy and other support services.

Unfortunately, like many in the disability community, far too many Massachusetts residents with disabilities have their personal decisions made by other people. The Real Lives Bill formally codifies successful “self-determination” strategies into Massachusetts law, making support services more flexible and allowing people to tailor the level of support to their individual needs.

Individual Support Plans (ISPs) and Plans of Care (POCs) will focus on four self-determination guiding principles: 1) giving every person a “place to call home;” 2) membership in the community; 3) the opportunity to improve and build economic self-sufficiency; and 4) support for existing or new long-term relationships.

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California Becomes First State to Recognize Importance of Credit-Building for Underbanked

At a time when countless people, including many individuals with disabilities, lack access to traditional financial products and services, on August 15th, Governor Jerry Brown (D-California) signed into law SB 896, a bill highlighting the importance of credit-building as a poverty alleviation strategy.

More than 64 million Americans have no credit score and limited credit history. This means, the majority are unable to qualify and take advantage of low-cost bank accounts, prime-rate loans and other more traditional financial products. Instead, they often turn to and, in some instances, forced to use predatory lenders and high interest financial services that only further reduce their limited financial resources.

SB 896 will change how things are done in the State of California by allowing more community non-profits to work hand-in-hand with many low-income Californians, including individuals with disabilities, to improve their access to traditional loans and financial products to bolster their financial capability and capacity. 

Going forward, it is our hope that more states will adopt similar pieces of legislation that recognize the transformative effect of credit-building on the lives and financial future of at-risk populations.   

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NDI Celebrates 79 Years of Social Security

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act of 1935, guaranteeing tens of millions of American workers, for the very first time, retirement benefits to help augment lost income and allow senior citizens the opportunity to live their latter years free of relative poverty.

Since that time, however, the Social Security program has been expanded to cover additional Americans, including individuals with disabilities. Without Social Security, countless people with and without disabilities would lack a much-needed resource and further compromise their already fragile state of financial stability.

We, at NDI, celebrate the nearly 80 years of protection and hope Social Security has afforded millions of Americans. As the nation’s first non-profit committed to improving the financial health and providing the tools to build a better economic future for people with disabilities, we stand with various federal, state and local governments and agencies, like-minded organizations and people all across the country in recognizing the importance of Social Security and our nation’s entire social welfare and services programs.

As Social Security embarks on its 80th year, we call on policymakers and stakeholders to ensure the program’s viability for generations to come. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said upon enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, “Today, a hope of many years’ standing is in large part fulfilled… We have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.” In that spirit, we must recommit ourselves to ensuring Americans with and without disabilities are afforded the same opportunity to live a fruitful and financially secure life for years to come.

To learn more about the Social Security program and to relive the program’s previous 79 years of service, please visit the Social Security Administration's 79th Anniversary webpage.

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Make the Most out of Congress' August Recess

The Congressional “August Recess” is coming to a close. However, there is still time to meet with your Member of Congress and/or Senator without having to travel to Capitol Hill! The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate do not return to Washington until September 8, so be sure to connect and share your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you.

For more information on the Congressional legislative calendar and to see upcoming dates when your elected officials are back in the district, please review the House Calendar and Senate Calendar.    

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July Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for July show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 12.1 percent. This is as a result of only 19.4 percent of people with disabilities actively in the labor force, as compared to the 69.4 percent of people with no disability who are part of the labor force. Data on people with disabilities covers those from the ages of 16 to 64 who do not live in institutions.

U.S. Disability Employment Profile
Statistic
With Disability
Without Disability
 
July
2013
July
2014
July
2013
July
2014
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
20.3
19.4
69.7
69.4
Employment-Population Ratio
17.3
17.0
64.5
65.0
Unemployment Rate
14.7
12.1
7.4
6.3
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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