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January 2016 | Vol. 8, Issue 1
CONTENTS
January Is National Poverty Awareness Month
ABLE Act News & Updates
Improvements to Earned Income Tax Credit Made Permanent
NDI Supports Social Security Beneficiary 2nd Amendment Rights Protection Act
December Employment Profile


 

January Is National Poverty Awareness Month

Today, there are 46.7 million people in the United States living in poverty ‒ a total population greater than Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska combined. Of those, more than 16 million also have a disability. Now, more than ever, it is time to break the disability-poverty pipeline.

In that spirit, National Disability Institute (NDI) joins with individuals and other organizations who are raising awareness and calling attention to the poverty epidemic in America. At a time when one in three Americans with disabilities lives in poverty, and with a disability poverty rate two times the national average, NDI is working to reverse this troubling trend. As the nation’s first and preeminent nonprofit dedicated exclusively to improving the financial health and future for people across the spectrum of disability, NDI is working to ensure all people, with and without disabilities, have the opportunity to take steps toward a more financially independent life with the tools necessary to build an even brighter economic future.

This month, during National Poverty Awareness Month, NDI renews its commitment to creating a world where every individual has the opportunity to achieve financial independence. Part of this commitment is to continue educating people with disabilities and their families, disability-related advocacy organizations, various state and federal policymakers and other relevant stakeholders on the significant role public policy has in diminishing poverty and increasing economic mobility. Please join NDI in this endeavor by encouraging your family, friends, colleagues and others to join the Real Economic Impact (REI) Network

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ABLE Act News & Updates

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which – along with the Omnibus – included several provisions related to our nation's tax policy commonly referred to as the “Tax Extenders Package,” or more formally known as The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015. Within this piece of legislation, was a provision to eliminate the residency requirement as mandated in the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.

Prior to H.R. 2029’s enactment, a qualified ABLE beneficiary could only establish an ABLE account in their particular state of residency (provided that their state was even offering an ABLE program). By allowing ABLE beneficiaries the opportunity to enroll outside of their state, individuals will now have greater options in choosing which program best meets their needs. In addition, this could mean qualified persons may have the ability to open an ABLE account much sooner than previously anticipated. In fact, NDI anticipates the first programs to open no later than mid-2016. Further, we hope that having a more open market, with respect to state ABLE programs, will produce lower fees and incentivize states to include additional ABLE account-related tax benefits, such as a state income tax deduction for ABLE account contributions. 

This is an exciting time for ABLE and millions of eligible beneficiaries and their families. Please visit the NDI website often to stay up to date on all the latest ABLE Act news.

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Improvements to Earned Income Tax Credit Made Permanent

In addition to the ABLE-related provision in the Tax Extenders Package, another provision that will have a significant effect on individuals with disabilities and their ability to more readily achieve and maintain economic self-sufficiency are improvements made to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

H.R. 2029 strengthened the EITC by making permanent aspects of the tax credit set to expire next year. The EITC is one of our country’s most effective anti-poverty initiatives, keeping millions of low- to moderate-income workers out of poverty. EITC’s benefits are critical to individuals with disabilities – considering the disproportionate number of Americans with disabilities living at or below poverty, as compared to Americans without disabilities. Additionally, it is important to note that federal and state EITC payments, like funds in an ABLE account, are not counted as income when determining eligibility for (or scope of) several public benefits, including Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Strengthening EITC is a significant achievement in the fight against poverty and puts the anti-poverty movement and disability community in a stronger position to further expand EITC by increasing the benefits for childless low- to moderate-income workers and reducing the age of eligibility to 21.

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NDI Supports Social Security Beneficiary 2nd Amendment Rights Protection Act

Recently the Obama Administration, in an effort to combat gun violence, stated its intentions to utilize the Social Security Representative Payee database to prohibit participants with psychiatric disabilities seeking assistance with their personal finances from purchasing firearms. This would require such individuals to be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check system. NDI supports efforts to reduce gun violence but, along with many national disability advocacy organizations, does not think it can be accomplished by insinuating individuals with disabilities are particularly harmful to themselves or others.

It is NDI’s concern that implementing such a policy would serve as a significant disincentive for individuals with disabilities in need of financial help to seek assistance, thereby not reaching their full economic potential.

Since President Obama’s announcement, Representative Sam Johnson (R-Tex) has gained much support from the disability community for introducing the Social Security Beneficiary 2nd Amendment Rights Protection Act (H.R. 3516). This legislation would prohibit the Obama Administration from pursuing the aforementioned Social Security Representative Payee database strategy.

NDI will continue to work with the larger disability advocacy community to support H.R. 3516 and to monitor the President's action in terms of the Representative Payee Program.

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December Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for December 2015 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 10.3 percent. This is a 0.9 percent decrease from December 2014. However, it is important to note that the employment-population ratio has decreased by 0.8 percent during the same timeframe. Additionally, the latest employment statistics finds that only 20.3 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 68.1 percent of people with no disability. 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
 
Dec.
2014
Dec.
2015
Dec.
2014
Dec.
2015
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
20.3
19.2
68.1
68.1
Employment-Population Ratio
18.0
17.2
64.6
65.0
Unemployment Rate
11.2
10.3
5.1
4.6
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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National Disability Institute

 

NATIONAL DISABILITY INSTITUTE: Celebrating 10 Years of Real Economic Impact for People with Disabilities
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Tel: (202) 296-2040
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