National Disability Institute's Washington Insider

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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June 2016 | Vol. 8, Issue 6
Nation’s First ABLE Programs Launch
House Ways and Means Committee Holds Hearing on “Moving America's Families Forward: Settling Priorities for Reducing Poverty and Expanding Opportunity”
National Disability Institute Meets with Speaker Paul Ryan’s Office
The Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility Releases Policy “Blueprint”
May 2016 Employment Profile


Nation’s First ABLE Programs Launch

The ABLE National Resource Center, founded and managed by National Disability Institute (NDI), is excited to announce that, as of June 1, qualified individuals with disabilities can open an ABLE account. Ohio led the way, opening the country’s first ABLE program, the Ohio STABLE Account program, quickly followed by Tennessee’s ABLE program, ABLE TN.

Both the Ohio and Tennessee programs are accepting enrollment nationwide and allow qualified individuals with disabilities to save up to $14,000 a year in an ABLE account without jeopardizing their eligibility for federally-funded means tested benefits, such as Social Security and Medicaid. The funds in the account can be used for disability-related expenses that assist the beneficiary in increasing and/or maintaining his or her health, independence or quality of life.

Millions of individuals with disabilities and their families are often relegated to a life of poverty as a result of not being allowed to build even the most modest level of resources. Individuals receiving supports through Social Security, Medicaid and other publicly-funded programs, are often disqualified from those supports if they have more than $2,000 worth of resources or assets. Now, for the first time, individuals with disabilities and their families will be able to better secure their financial futures and help offset the often significant financial challenges that can accompany living with a disability.

Both the Ohio and Tennessee programs are focused on ensuring that there are minimal costs associated with establishing and maintaining an account.

For the Ohio STABLE Account program, Ohio residents will pay $2.50 per month ($30 annually) to maintain their accounts. Residents of other states will pay $5.00 per month ($60 annually) to maintain their accounts. Ohio residents will also have a small asset-based fee of between 0.19 percent and 0.34 percent, depending on their chosen investment options. Similarly, non-Ohio residents will have an asset-based fee of between 0.45 percent and 0.60 percent, depending on their chosen investment options.

In comparison, for the ABLE TN plan, total annual asset-based fees range from 0 percent to 0.63 percent, depending on the investment selections held within an account. There are no sales or distribution charges or fixed account maintenance fees associated with ABLE TN accounts. The total annual asset-based fee includes the underlying investment expenses and program management fee. The annual asset-based fee is divided over 12 months and applied to the account balance at the end of each month.

The Ohio STABLE Account program and ABLE TN are currently the only two programs enrolling beneficiaries in the country, and they are doing so via their online portals. However, we expect several other states, including Nebraska, Florida and Utah, to launch their ABLE account programs in the near future. In fact, both Nebraska (a national plan) and Florida (an in-state only plan) are expected to launch prior to July 1.

To learn more about ABLE programs and accounts, how to compare programs and the latest news on other state programs, visit the ABLE National Resource Center website.

For more information about Ohio’sprogram and how to enroll, visit the Ohio STABLE Account website.

For more information about Tennessee’s program and how to enroll, visit the ABLE TN website.  

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House Ways and Means Committee Holds Hearing on “Moving America's Families Forward: Settling Priorities for Reducing Poverty and Expanding Opportunity”

On May 24, the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Kevin Brody (R-TX), held a full committee hearing to examine how human and social service delivery systems can better help more low-income American families move out of poverty and up the economic ladder.

Four individuals were invited to present testimony to the full Committee, offering divergent new points on what Congress can do to help low-income families become more financially stable and advance their economic self-sufficiency. Testimony was provided by John Engler, former governor of Michigan on behalf of the Business Roundtable; Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability; Karin VanZant, Executive Director of CareSource Life Services based in Dayton, Ohio; and Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Although there was agreement that any policy reforms should focus on putting people on pathways to work that prepare them for careers, there was also significant disagreement on whether or not current Social Security and economic programs are effective in moving people out of poverty.

As CLASP Executive Director Olivia Golden testified, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which includes Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), have substantially reduced poverty and enabled children to have their basic needs met regarding health and nutrition by acting as a safety net for low-income families.

Members of the Committee and witnesses were in disagreement about the manner in which conventional entitlement programs are funded.  Republicans argued in favor of block granting these programs and giving greater flexibility and control to states with regard to the spending of the funds.  This block granting approach to entitlements, such as Medicaid, has long been seen as a significant threat to individuals with disabilities, as it is expected to result in a reduction to essential supports and services received by children and adults with disabilities. There was also disagreement on mandatory work requirements being imposed to remain eligible for entitlement programs like Medicaid.

Golden challenged Committee members to take five bold next steps:

  1. Help parents work and children thrive by ensuring access to high-quality child care and early education programs.
  2. Ensure access to high-quality workforce development programs and career opportunities to all low-income and low-skilled workers, both youth and adults.
  3. Tear down financial barriers to postsecondary success for today’s low-income students.
  4. Fix gaps in the safety net and support work for the neediest Americans.
  5. Establish minimum standards for wages and key aspects of job quality, so jobs support rather than destabilize families.

Read Golden’s full testimony to the Ways and Means Committee.

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National Disability Institute Meets with Speaker Paul Ryan’s Office

On June 1, National Disability Institute (NDI) had the opportunity to meet with Mr. David Hoppe, Chief of Staff for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI). This meeting gave NDI the opportunity to further educate the Speaker’s office about the significant prevalence of poverty among individuals with disabilities and their families. Furthermore, NDI presented a slate of 10 recommendations that, if implemented, would begin to counter the overwhelming number of Americans with disabilities living in perpetual poverty.

The meeting took place at a critical time, as the Speaker’s office was only weeks away from releasing its plan to address poverty and other domestic policy issues. Prior to the release of the Speaker’s recommendations to address poverty, Speaker Ryan had formed the Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility, comprised of six Republican members of the House. The established vision of the Task Force is to:

Strengthen America’s social safety net to better help those in need; improve education and training so more can succeed in today’s economy; help welfare recipients enter, reenter, and remain in the workforce; and empower everyone to live their own American Dream. 

It is NDI’s hope that Speaker Ryan, and his Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility, will incorporate policy initiatives directly related to helping people with disabilities gain meaningful employment, save for their futures, access financial services more readily and ultimately become part of the economic mainstream.

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The Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility Releases Policy “Blueprint”

On June 7, House Speaker Paul Ryan released a much anticipated report titled, “A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America.” Developed by the Speaker’s Republican Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility, the report is a proposed “blueprint for reforming the welfare, workforce and education programs that will empower Americans to achieve the American Dream.” The impetus for the report, and subsequent policy recommendations, takes into consideration listening sessions, hearings and a variety of studies that led to the Taskforce’s arguable conclusion that “Americans are no better off today than they were before the War on Poverty began in 1964.”

National Disability Institute (NDI) appreciates the much needed focus on poverty in America and the call for urgent action by Members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats alike, to develop comprehensive strategies focused on empowering low-income Americans to have access to needed supports, incentives and structures that expand opportunities for financial security and upward mobility.

It is imperative that policy makers recognize that no class of Americans has been left further behind and below the bottom rung of the economic ladder than that of working age adults with disabilities. Moreover, woman and/or people of color who have one or more disabilities are even more likely to be poor, unemployed, undereducated, unbanked and vulnerable to predatory lenders and alternative financial services. The poverty debate must not ignore the challenges faced by the diversity of people that are living with a disability and who have the genuine desire to work, save and build a personal path to a better economic future. The complex maze of federal programs and benefits; policy disincentives to work, save and build assets; and career pathways with no affordable and/or accessible on-ramp creates barriers to economic empowerment that can and must be overcome for individuals with disabilities.

The general theme of the report to promote innovation, access and opportunity for low-income Americans begins the conversation. However, mentions of “reducing the federal role,” “greater flexibility for states,” and “eliminating burdensome regulations” sends strong signals of alarm that individuals with disabilities will have a social safety net removed that is needed to facilitate their mobility into the economic mainstream.

In the coming weeks, NDI will analyze the report in its entirety and provide a summary, analysis and recommendations specific to addressing poverty among individuals with disabilities and their families.

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May 2016 Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for May 2016 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 9.7 percent. This is a 0.4 percent decrease from May 2015. The latest employment statistics also find that only 20.5 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 68.4 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
With Disability
Without Disability
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
Employment-Population Ratio
Unemployment Rate
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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