Economic Empowerment

WID E3 offers specific economic empowerment strategies, subject matter expertise, and technical assistance to improve the financial outcomes for people with disabilities. According to behavioral finance research, knowledge of basic financial information has the power to significantly reduce wealth inequality in the United States, particularly in traditionally underserved communities.

WID E3 has developed and curated a comprehensive group of resources to better meet the specific needs of the disability community. From budgeting, dealing with credit card debt, and taking advantage of refinancing opportunities to optimizing Social Security benefits, avoiding predatory lenders and financial scams, and planning for retirement, WID E3 has the resources to help change people’s lives.

WID is privileged to have assisted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in developing their “Focus on People with Disabilities, Your Money, Your Goals” Empowerment Toolkit. WID is also honored to be working with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to ensure their “Money Smart” curriculum is inclusive of and relevant to people with disabilities.

EQUITY

EQUITY: Asset Building Strategies for People with Disabilities, A Guide to Financial Empowerment covers all topics that are important to people with disabilities in their quest for improved finances and asset building. It is a stand-alone book and a video series. WID offers financial education trainings and technical assistance for families, individuals and professionals based on WIOA requirements and EQUITY: Asset-Building Strategies for People with Disabilities.

ABLE 101

WID also offers information and training to aid in understanding ABLE (“Achieving a Better Life Experience”) accounts. ABLE accounts are groundbreaking resources for certain people with disabilities to save money and invest for their future. These specialized savings accounts do not count as “assets” that the government uses to determine whether somebody is eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, or other federal benefits. This means that account holders can save money and still receive vital benefits to protect their health and well-being.

  • Eligibility:  ABLE accounts are open to people with disabilities who acquired their disability at age 26 or before. It doesn’t matter how old somebody is right now; it just matters when their disability came about. This can include disabilities from birth, such as developmental disabilities, or acquired disabilities, such as chronic health conditions or major physical injuries.
    People can document their eligibility in different ways. They are automatically eligible if they are on SSI for disability, and the disability occurred at or before age 26. Account-holders can get a letter from a physician verifying that they have a qualifying disability. Otherwise, they can self-certify that they have a qualifying disability—and of course, people should be prepared to justify a disability with personally held information or a physician’s note.
  • Savings and Benefits: Normally, people with disabilities are limited to having $2,000 in assets if they are to receive benefits including SSI and Medicaid. However, ABLE accounts transform this rule. The first $100,000 in an ABLE account is not considered countable assets for means of determining eligibility for SSI. ABLE accounts have higher levels for Medicaid and other federally means-tested benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • ABLE’s Tax Advantages: ABLE account programs are set up by different states and run at the state level—but most are open to out-of-state residents, which means that there are many opportunities available.  Assets in an ABLE account grow tax-free.
  • Qualified Disability Expenses (QDEs): The money and ABLE accounts must be spent on items that are considered “Qualified Disability Expenses” or QDEs. This list includes things, such as housing, transportation, adaptive equipment, health care expenses, and even disability-related lawyers’ fees.

Visit the ABLE National Resource Center’s website to see which states currently offer ABLE accounts.

To learn more about WID’s economic empowerment resources and training, including EQUITY and ABLE 101, contact Thomas Foley, WID’s Deputy Director/Access to Assets Program Director.

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