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January 2017 | Vol. 9, Issue 1
CONTENTS
ABLE Program Development Update
The VITA Act Re-Introduced in the 115th Congress
USDA Reaffirms ABLE Funds Exclusion When Determining Eligibility for SNAP
NDI Executive Director Set to Moderate National ABLE Webinar
December Employment Profile


 

ABLE Program Development Update

ABLE programs are quickly being launched all over the country. With the launch of six additional state ABLE programs since last month’s Washington Insider, there are now 16 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 include: Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Nebraska, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Kentucky, Virginia, Alaska and Rhode Island. Additionally, at least five more states are expected to open in the next couple months.

In order to receive the latest information on these 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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The VITA Act Re-Introduced in the 115th Congress

Just this past month, Senator Brown (D-OH), with the support of Senator Coons (D-DE) and in conjunction with Representative Davis (D-IL) on the House side, re-introduced what was known in previous congresses as the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Act. 

S. 193 and H.R. 605, respectively, supported by NDI, direct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to establish a Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Matching Grant Program (VITA grant program) for the development, expansion or continuation of volunteer tax preparation programs to assist low-income taxpayers and members of underserved populations, including individuals with disabilities.

Additionally, the bill establishes the National Center to Promote Quality, Excellence and Evaluation in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. The primary functions of the Center are as follows:

  1. Promote the adoption of a universally accessible volunteer training platform for the preparation of federal income tax returns;
  2. Provide technical assistance to tax return preparation program managers;
  3. Identify and disseminate best practices related to tax site management;
  4. Support outreach and marketing efforts; and
  5. Provide evaluation of programs and activities funded under the VITA Act.

NDI has done a great deal of work around the VITA program in order to assist individuals with disabilities in not only filing their taxes, but ensuring they also benefit from eligibility for certain types of tax credits and deductions. Often individuals with disabilities and their families qualify for special types of tax relief, but do not have the means to hire tax experts to assist in navigating their eligibility.

By strengthening the VITA program, individuals with disabilities will have a greater ability to access needed tax assistance and the opportunity to build for a better economic future.

NDI applauds Senator Brown, Senator Coons and Representative Davis for their commitment to this legislation and for their commitment to fighting poverty.

For more information on how NDI has played a part in increasing access to and inclusion of people with disabilities in asset development, financial education and free tax preparation programs and services (resulting in 2.8 million people with disabilities receiving more than $2.7 billion in tax refunds and credits), visit the Taxes and Tax Preparation web pages.  

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USDA Reaffirms ABLE Funds Exclusion When Determining Eligibility for SNAP

On January 6, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), a federal agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), published a final rule regarding various aspects related to, among others, eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families (including those with disabilities) and provides economic benefits to communities. Additionally, SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, according to the USDA website.

SNAP is a federally-funded means-tested benefit and, therefore, in accordance with the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, should disregard funds in an ABLE account when determining eligibility for its benefits. The recently released rules confirm and reiterate that ABLE funds will not compromise otherwise eligible individuals from accessing benefits under the SNAP program.

National Disability Institute and the ABLE National Resource Center (the Center) applaud FNS, along with the USDA, for publishing this rule and therefore recognizing one of the most prominent features of the ABLE Act, which allows individuals with disabilities and their families the ability to save funds without jeopardizing their eligibility for federally-funded means-tested benefits.

NDI and the Center, along with others in the disability advocacy community, continue to work with other federal agencies and departments that provide other federally-funded means-tested benefits to encourage them to publish similar guidance, including the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Despite the fact that these departments have not yet published such guidance, the Center believes that the ABLE Act alone still allows for these protections, and we encourage qualified individuals to seriously consider opening an account.

Read the final rule.

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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 most four recent plans to launch.  Moderated by National Disability Institute’s Executive Director, Michael Morris, the webinar will feature presentations from representatives on behalf of the STABLE Kentucky ProgramMichigan’s MiABLE Program, the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan and Virginia’s ABLEnow Program.

The webinar will take place January 31 from 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST, and focus on various program characteristics including:

  • The enrollment process for each program
  • The fees associated with each program 
  • The investment opportunities offered with each program
  • Identifying how those differences may affect which program best meets individual and specific needs

Register for A Deeper Look at Four New ABLE Programs.

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December Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for December 2016 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 9.0 percent. This is a 1.3 percent decrease from December 2016. The latest employment statistics also find that only 20.1 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 between the ages of 16 to 64 who do not live in institutions.

U.S. Disability Employment Profile
Statistic
With Disability
Without Disability
 
Dec.
2015
Dec.
2016
Dec.
2015
Dec.
2016
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
19.2
20.1
68.1
68.1
Employment-Population Ratio
17.2
18.3
65.0
65.1
Unemployment Rate
10.3
9.0
4.6
4.3
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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