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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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February 2017 | Vol. 9, Issue 2
CONTENTS
National Disability Institute’s Senior Public Policy Advisor Elected to Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Board of Directors
Senator Coons Re-Introduces the “Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act”
ABLE Program Development Update
NDI Executive Director Set to Moderate National ABLE Webinar
January Employment Profile


 

National Disability Institute’s Senior Public Policy Advisor Elected to Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Board of Directors

This past month, National Disability Institute’s (NDI) Senior Public Policy Advisor, Christopher Rodriguez, was nominated, and subsequently elected, to the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Board of Directors. Mr. Rodriguez, who has been with NDI for two years, is the newest “Director-at-Large” on the CCD Board and will occupy that position for the duration of the three-year term.

According to its website, CCD has been in existence since 1973 and is a coalition of approximately 100 national disability organizations working together to advocate for national public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society.

This position will help to continue the elevation of NDI’s presence in the sphere of federal public policy related to individuals with disabilities and allow NDI to increase its overall contribution to the disability advocacy community at large.

Mr. Rodriguez is also the Co-Chair of the CCD Poverty Task Force and the CCD Financial Security Task Force.

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Senator Coons Re-Introduces the “Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act”

Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) re-introduced the “Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act.”  This piece of legislation, which has garnered co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle, addresses how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) treats amounts of student loan discharges for individuals who have been deemed “totally and permanently disabled.”

In many instances, individuals who qualify for the student loan forgiveness plan, as a result of meeting certain criteria related to the severity of their disability, may face significant challenges related to employment and the ability to save money. Understanding these challenges, the current law allows individuals who meet the definition of “totally and permanently disabled” to have any outstanding federal student loan debt forgiven and discharged, so that it does not continue to exacerbate what may already be a circumstance of significant financial hardship. However, as the law currently stands, once the federal student loan is discharged, the IRS can count the amount that is forgiven as taxable income of the individual with a disability. In turn, this can potentially produce tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of tax liability that can yield substantial consequences for the individual with a disability.

Recognizing the possibly detrimental effects of what is meant to be a law that eases financial hardship for individuals with disabilities, Senator Coons’ “Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act” would exempt federal and private student loans, which are forgiven and discharged as a result of meeting the criteria related to disability, from federal income tax. This bill would also extend the same tax exemption to parents that have outstanding student loan debt on behalf of a son or daughter that experiences significant disability or death.

NDI appreciates Senator Coons’ efforts to address this issue, along with his colleagues Senator King (I-ME) and Senator Portman (R-OH). NDI is proud to support this legislation and plans to educate other Members of Congress on its importance in alleviating undue financial burdens on people with disabilities and their families.

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ABLE Program Development Update

With the launch of two additional state ABLE programs this past month (Vermont and Alabama), there are now 18 programs across the country that are enrolling and opening ABLE accounts for eligible individuals with disabilities (the majority of which are enrolling nationwide).

These states now include: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. Additionally, at least five more states are expected to open in the next couple months.

In order to receive the latest information on new state launches, be sure to sign up for “ABLE Alerts” through the ABLE National Resource Center (founded and managed by National Disability Institute).  

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NDI Executive Director Set to Moderate National ABLE Webinar

The ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) is inviting potential ABLE participants, their families and all other ABLE stakeholders, to attend a free webinar focused on introducing the National ABLE Alliance. The National ABLE Alliance is a partnership of states dedicated to providing the disability community with an ABLE investment product that offers multiple financial options at low cost. To date, the National ABLE Alliance has facilitated the launch of eight ABLE programs, with more to come in the next year. Moderated by Michael Morris, Executive Director of National Disability Institute, the webinar will feature the recent state ABLE programs launched by the National ABLE Alliance and their various characteristics.

The webinar will take place March 2 from 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST, and focus on:

  • Learning the enrollment process of each program 
  • Learning the fees associated with each program 
  • Learning the investment opportunities offered with each program 
  • Identifying how those differences may affect which program best meets your specific needs

In order to prepare for the webinar, we encourage you to watch the short informative videos: ABLE Basics and Becoming ABLE Ready.

Register for Introduction to the National ABLE Alliance.

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January Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for January 2016 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 11.0 percent. This is a 0.2 percent increase from January 2016. The latest employment statistics also find that only 19.5 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 68.2 percent of people with no disability. Data on people with disabilities covers those between the ages of 16 to 64 who do not live in institutions.

U.S. Disability Employment Profile
Statistic
With Disability
Without Disability
 
Jan.
2016
Jan.
2017
Jan.
2016
Jan.
2017
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
19.5
19.5
67.9
68.2
Employment-Population Ratio
17.4
17.4
64.5
64.8
Unemployment Rate
10.8
11.0
5.1
4.9
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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