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May 2015 | Vol. 7, Issue 5
CONTENTS
ABLE Act News and Views
Congressional Budget Guts Social Safety Net
The Growing Importance of Financial Literacy for Individuals with Disability
New Studies Find Flaws in Social Security Forecasts
Call To Action: Prevent Funding Cuts to Social Safety Net
NDI Meets with the National Industry Liaison Group
Advisory Committee Holds Third Meeting
April Employment Profile


 

ABLE Act News and Views

National Disability Institute (NDI) is excited to report that state ABLE Act legislation continues to gain momentum across the country. Currently, there are more than 25 state legislatures considering ABLE-related legislation — with 18 states already successfully passing bills out of their respective House and Senate chambers. We remain optimistic that the majority of pending ABLE legislation will pass in the near future and states that have not yet filed ABLE-related legislation will do so in the coming months.

In anticipation, the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) invited NDI, along with representatives from The Arc and National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), to participate in a half-day panel discussion on the various aspects related to both the development and implementation of ABLE programs. This meeting, which took place on May 15th in Kansas City, Missouri, was attended by self-advocates and family members, state and local disability organizations and members from more than 30 state treasurers’ offices.

To download NDI’s ABLE presentation, please visit the NDI website.

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Congressional Budget Guts Social Safety Net

On May 5th, the U.S. Senate passed S.Con.Res. 11, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Budget Resolution, on a party line vote of 51 to 48. The Senate vote was preceded by a vote on the Budget in the U.S. House of Representatives. The lower Chamber similarly passed the Budget Resolution along party lines (226-197) on April 30, 2015.

Unfortunately, for scores of working families, people with disabilities, seniors, the working poor and other at-risk Americans, the FY16 Budget will cause further economic insecurity and financial worry. Under the Budget framework, Congress calls for $4.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade to federal benefit programs like Medicaid, Medicare and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — programs people with disabilities have historically relied on to make ends meet. More specifically, the FY16 Budget seeks to cut $600 billion from “income security” programs (SNAP, tax credits for the working poor, nutritional assistance for single mothers and school lunches).

As the nation’s first and preeminent nonprofit dedicated to assisting all people across the spectrum of disability reach their full economic potential, NDI stands adamantly opposed to the Budget. Going forward, we will work tirelessly to educate federal policymakers on both sides of the aisle on the security these programs provide countless Americans with and without disabilities, and the detrimental effects these cuts would have on their lives.

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The Growing Importance of Financial Literacy for Individuals with Disability

Over the past decade, there has been an undeniable trend among many in the disability community, and subsequently in disability-related public policy, to begin to address the vast inequalities related to employment for individuals with disabilities in America — especially those individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

While we work to support educational opportunities for youth with disabilities to garner relevant vocational tools, increase the availability of opportunities for competitive integrated employment and provide for financial resources like ABLE accounts to protect essential supports and services regardless of income, there exists a significant gap in helping individuals with disabilities better manage these acquired resources. By giving an individual with a disability the opportunity to earn and save money without equipping them with the tools to understand how to manage those funds, we are missing a key component that can yield an enormous increase in overall independence and self-determination.

Clearly understanding the importance of financial literacy for people with disabilities, several Florida state legislators introduced HB 7085. This bill would have created a financial literacy program to assist individuals with developmental disabilities to better understand the wide range of issues related to money management and financial planning. Despite strong, bipartisan support, HB 7085 was not acted on prior to the adjournment of the Florida legislative session. However, we are hopeful the bill will be reintroduced in the next legislative session with a more favorable outcome.

In the meantime, NDI has begun to encourage other states to pursue similar state legislation, including inserting a financial literacy component into ABLE-related bills. As a result, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley of Michigan, working closely with State Representative Anthony Forlini (sponsor of Michigan’s ABLE Act), was successful in inserting a financial literacy education requirement mandating any entity offering an ABLE account in Michigan must also provide financial literacy materials developed specifically for individuals with disabilities.

Going forward, we will continue to work with more states in developing legislation around financial literacy for individuals with disabilities. If you think your state may be interested, please reach out to NDI Senior Public Policy Advisor Chris Rodriguez at: crodriguez@ndi-inc.org.

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New Studies Find Flaws in Social Security Forecasts

Researchers from Harvard University and Dartmouth College released two new reports calling into question the overall financial health of the Social Security program.

One study compared all forecasts made by the Social Security Administration (SSA) over the 80-year history of the program with actual outcomes, and found that recent forecasts (since 2000) have become increasingly biased and inaccurate. In fact, the Harvard/Dartmouth team found that current forecasts are likely off by billions of dollars, which could mean program insolvency earlier than expected without Congressional action. The second study, released in tandem with the aforementioned study, found that ad hoc, antiquated methods for creating forecasts were the cause of growing inaccuracy in Social Security forecasts.

The most recent Social Security Trustees Report projects the Social Security program will go insolvent in 2033, and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program by the end of 2016. While these projections certainly garnered many people’s attention, the findings from the Harvard/Dartmouth team is cause for even greater alarm to the millions of Americans with and without disabilities that rely on Social Security to survive financially, their families and policymakers inside the Beltway.

We, at NDI, will continue to do everything in our power to leverage our position in the disability community and advocate for practical, common-sense reforms to ensure the continued viability of the Social Security program for generations to come.

To learn more about the Harvard/Dartmouth report, please read the recent Harvard Gazette article.  

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Call To Action: Prevent Funding Cuts to Social Safety Net

As previously mentioned, the 114th Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolution that unfairly targets our country’s most financially vulnerable. As a result, NDI is calling on individuals with disabilities, their family, friends and disability advocates to call, write, email and/or speak with their federal representatives and demand they maintain funding for the social safety net during the appropriations process. To help in this effort, please consider using the draft text/script below to engage with your federally elected officials:

(Introduction: greeting, your name, etc.), As the federal appropriations process begins, I am (mode of communication) today to respectfully request you not support any funding bills this year which include draconian cuts to programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicaid, Medicare and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

As a (person with a disability, family member of a PWD, friend of a PWD, professional in the disability field) these programs allow (me, my family member with a disability, people with disabilities) the ability to access the essential supports and services (I, my family, we, they) need(s) to pursue the American Dream.

(INSERT HERE: Specific example on how the service or support is used in your life would be helpful, but not necessary.)

I urge you to keep me, the nearly 58 million Americans with disabilities and their families in mind when making decisions that affect programs and support services many Americans’ very livelihood depends on.

Thank you so much for your commitment to public service, and I look forward to your response.

SIGNATURE

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NDI Meets with the National Industry Liaison Group

Chris Rodriguez, NDI Senior Public Policy Advisor, was invited to join a discussion at the Department of Labor between representatives of the disability advocacy community and National Industry Liaison Group (NILG) Board. NILG supports approximately 61 industry liaison groups (ILG), which are comprised of federal contractors of all sizes and employers across the country.

The meeting, facilitated by the Director Patricia Shiu of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), provided NDI and others representing the disability advocacy community the opportunity to begin a mutually beneficial dialogue aimed at assisting federal contractors increase their employment of individuals with disabilities as stipulated in the 2013 final rules on Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The conversation focused on the benefits of a more diverse workforce that includes individuals with disabilities, and on how federal contractors can better reach this population. 

In the weeks and months ahead, NDI looks forward to continuing the conversation with NILG and its members in an effort to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, as well as assist federal contractors in meeting their obligations.

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Advisory Committee Holds Third Meeting

On May 11th and 12th, the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities held their third meeting of 2015. As mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the Committee is required to meet at least eight times and provide an interim report within one year to the Secretary of Labor on ways to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities, the use of 14c certificates and how to improve certificate oversight.

Comprised of 18 representatives from six regions across the country, the Committee’s third meeting included various presentations and lengthy discussion on its ongoing work to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

We have a vested interested in the Committee’s work. NDI has long argued for the abolishment of 14c certificates which allow employers to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage – preventing such workers from reaching their full potential and often rendering them financially dependent and reliant on family, friends and/or government assistance.

For a detailed breakdown, or to view the presentations from the Advisory Committee’s most recent meeting, visit the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy website. To learn more about the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, please visit the Committee’s webpage.  

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April Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for April 2015 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 10 percent. While this a 2.5 percent reduction from April 2014, and a 1.7 percent decrease as compared to the previous month, only about 1 in 5 people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to nearly 7 in 10 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
 
Apr.
2014
Apr.
2015
Apr.
2014
Apr.
2015
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
19.1
19.3
68.3
68.4
Employment-Population Ratio
16.7
17.3
64.5
65.0
Unemployment Rate
12.5
10.0
5.6
4.9
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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