Poverty Rate for Americans with Disabilities is Double the U.S. Average

The 2013 Census Bureau report found that poverty declined overall to 14.5%, but the rate for individuals with disabilities increased to 28.8%. The latest unemployment statistics show an overall drop to 6%, but for people with disabilities, it is at 12.8%. Less than 20% of the approximately 29 million adults in the United States with disabilities have jobs, compared to nearly 70% of those without a disability.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a report, “Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People With Disabilities,” assessing housing, employment, transportation, and other barriers facing Americans with disabilities. The results, based on interviews with 400 Americans with disabilities living in poverty, found significant obstacles for adults with disabilities.

A major concern for individuals with disabilities is the fear that saving money could lead to a loss of benefits. The current savings limit that can disqualify an individual with a disability from earning benefits is $2000. This amount was put into place when the program was initially created, and is equal to $13,000 in today’s dollars.

Becky Duncan Massey, a state senator from Tennessee says,

“There is no way to save for emergencies and other things to help pull them out of poverty.”

These statistics, along with the HELP report, have brought new support for the ABLE act, which would allow individuals with disabilities to open tax-free accounts, similar to college 529 plans, for everyday expenses, without threat of losing benefits. The bill is currently awaiting a House floor vote.