Financial hardship, another struggle for Michiganders with disabilities

“I wasn’t able to afford rent or utilities”
Michiganders with disabilities struggle financially
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 5:21 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Chances are, you know someone who is disabled. In many cases, their care can be expensive.

Most disabled people get a social security check each month to help make ends meet, but some aren’t getting those checks or any help at all. Because of that, affording the basics - like medication - has become a daily battle.

More than 80,000 people with disabilities across Mid-Michigan struggle financially – 46% have not received a social security check.

“It’s a long time to go without income for a lot of people that come down with a disability and it’s very common for people to wind up homeless or moving in with family just to have a roof over their heads,” said Travis Poland, Community Resilience Coordinator at Disability Network Capital Area.

Travis Poland was born with cystic fibrosis. For 10 of his adult years, Travis was disabled and lived on a full-time oxygen tank.

“I had to move back in with my parents in order to just survive. I wasn’t able to afford rent or utilities. I had to go on food stamps and Medicaid,” said Poland, who had worked for 15 years prior to becoming disabled.

New research from ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) shows outdated federal guidelines prevent a lot of people with disabilities – who live in financial hardship – from getting the assistance they need.

“The hardest part was the time frame. It’s a very long process to get approved for social security benefits,” said Poland.

If approved, more than half of Michiganders with disabilities spend at least 35% of their benefits on basic needs – and there can only be a certain amount of money in savings to qualify. Too much money saved could mean no benefits for those in need.

“But we’re doing our best to talk to our Michigan lawmakers and elected officials so that they have this information and that they understand the impact this has,” said Alyssa Stewart, Chief Impact Officer at United Way South Central Michigan.

Other findings in the study include – 28% of Michiganders with disabilities are above the federal poverty line, but still struggle to afford basic needs; Black and Hispanic people with disabilities are especially vulnerable to financial hardships; and women with disabilities have a harder time affording care than men.

And it could be even worse – according to United Way, the number of people with disabilities living in financial hardship could be higher than what’s reported. Places like nursing homes and jails don’t report this type of data.

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