April 27, 2016
“A penny saved is a penny earned,” goes an old American adage. But if you’re a person with a disability who receives some form of public benefits, things aren’t as simple as Benjamin Franklin made them out to be.
Instead, limits on assets as low as a few thousand dollars for public benefits programs pose a challenge for people with disabilities because too much money in the bank could affect their eligibility for programs.
“It’s a game they play. They have to spend money because losing access to the benefits is critical,” said Kathleen Kleinmann, executive director of Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living, or TRIPIL, an advocacy group based in Washington.
Kleinmann was among the advocates across the state who welcomed the passage of a state law last week that makes some people with physical and intellectual disabilities eligible for tax-free savings accounts that allow them to put aside money to cover expenses related to their disability – including assistive technology, personal assistance services and health care – without losing their eligibility for public assistance.
Kate Blaker, volunteer coordinator for TRIPIL, said that when they’re available, the new accounts also could be used to cover education and transportation.
“This isn’t about helping people save for luxury vacations,” said Brenda Dare, independent living supervisor for TRIPIL. “It’s about helping people save for their basic needs.”