Combating poverty for people who have disabilities is a necessity. Many people who have disabilities struggle to survive on incomes at the federal poverty limit, while others are limited in the assets they can have and remain eligible for SSI, and Medical Assistance (MA) or Medicaid. While raising MA income standards and assets are welcome, there is a need for additional assistance.
There were discussions in the 2016 Presidential nominating contest within the Democratic Party on establishing a guaranteed income for people. A guaranteed income program provides each person selected to participate with a monthly cash grant. It could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on the scope of the program and funding available.
The guaranteed income’s purpose is to provide participants with additional financial security. Participants would know they could use those funds for childcare, out-of-pocket medical expenses, housing, food, education expenses, and other necessities. It might allow people to save money so they have an emergency fund in case they lose employment or face some other crisis. People who have disabilities would certainly benefit from this type of program.
The Arc Minnesota was able to meet recently with Andrea Inouye of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s office to discuss the Minneapolis Guaranteed Basic Income Demonstration Pilot. The City Council has approved $3 million dollars for the program. It is part of a city budget to spend federal funding received from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. The city of St. Paul and Mayor Melvin Carter recently implemented a similar program called the People’s Prosperity Guaranteed Income Pilot.
According to Ms. Inouye, the program will allow 500 Minneapolis households with income at 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) or less to receive $500 per month for 24 months.
While The Arc Minnesota welcomes a guaranteed income pilot, there needs to be steps taken to ensure the participation of people who have disabilities in the program. One issue is whether an extra $500 per month will cause people to lose eligibility for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare. Another issue is what impact the $500 per month would have on other benefits like SNAP, MFIP or childcare assistance. Ms. Inoyoue said that the city is seeking waivers from the state or county as needed. She was glad to get the feedback about health care benefits.
Outreach for participation in the program should be fully accessible and written in plain language. All people should understand fully the impact on other benefit programs they receive if selected to participate in the pilot.
The Arc Minnesota will continue to monitor the progress on this guaranteed income pilot, provide input to Minneapolis, and pass on further information as it becomes available.
Written by Gene Martinez, The Arc Minnesota Legislative Advocacy Coordinator