New research: 57% of People with Disabilities in Tennessee are Living in Financial Hardship

 


A new report reveals that federal poverty data significantly undercounts how many people with disabilities are struggling to afford the basics.

The number of people with disabilities in Tennessee who struggle to afford the basics is far higher than federal poverty data indicates — more than 1 million in our state, according to a new report from United Ways of Tennessee and its research partner United For ALICE.

In 2019, while 20% of Tennessee residents with disabilities were deemed in poverty, 37% — nearly twice as many — were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). ALICE households earn more than the Federal Poverty Level but less than what it costs to live and work in the modern economy. Combined, 57% of our state’s residents living with disabilities were below the ALICE Threshold, with income that doesn’t meet the basic costs of housing, child care, health care, transportation and a smartphone plan.


“On the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we see residents in Tennessee with physical, mental or emotional conditions are struggling financially, and they are not only being undercounted, but also underserved,” said president, Mary Graham. “Having a disability puts individuals at substantial risk for financial instability, more than many other factors. These individuals face barriers to accessing quality services, education, secure jobs and other critical supports. The pandemic made things harder, with food insufficiency, interrupted learning, depression, anxiety and work loss even higher for this population.”

The new research also shows that outdated federal guidelines prevent the majority of residents with disabilities who are living in financial hardship from accessing critical public assistance. According to the new report, a staggering 85% of Tennessee residents with disabilities below the ALICE Threshold did not receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The program requires that recipients have income below the poverty level, be unable to work, have a “severe” impairment and have less than $2,000 in their bank accounts, $3,000 if they are a married couple.

 

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