Targeting Financial Stability for Jobseekers with Disabilities
By Carolann Murphy, PA
In the current climate of full employment, people with disabilities have achieved some success in finding their place in the labor market. As job gains begin to slow, however, the underlying problem looms large–the wide and persistent gap in employment between people with disabilities and without disabilities. This gap underlies the association between disability and poverty in the U.S.; 40% of people with disabilities live in poverty. The grip of poverty is difficult to elude, even for those who succeed in finding jobs.
According to National Disability Institute (NDI), financial instability is a serious issue for people with disabilities, many of whom struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. Compared to people without disabilities, people with disabilities are more likely to have difficulty paying bills, managing expenses related to medical care, and dealing with unplanned expenses. Only 32% can handle an unanticipated expense of $2,000.
"The focus on employment as the desired outcome needs to change," said Michael Morris, NDI’s executive director. "For disability employment service providers, the end goal must be financial independence and stability. That means providing financial services that are affordable and accessible, and education and coaching that helps individuals take advantage of those services and make fully informed decisions."
Employers can help by integrating financial services and education into their benefit plans, including information specific to workers with disabilities. "There’s an opportunity to educate their employees with disabilities about ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts, tax-advantaged savings accounts that are an important way for people with disabilities to accumulate assets," noted Morris. "Employers could encourage the use of ABLE accounts by seeding new accounts and matching contributions."
Wraparound services are an essential component to employment programs for people with disabilities. "Despite the challenges, people with disabilities are striving to work," said Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of the Center for Grantmaking and Communications at Kessler Foundation. "To help them achieve their end goal of financial independence requires a comprehensive approach," she emphasized. "Programs that address their needs for financial literacy, as well as education, medical care, transportation, child care, and legal services, will be most effective."