When $9 a Day is a Blessing
How would you survive if you developed a permanent disability that made it impossible to work? Most likely, you would apply for federal benefits designed to provide an income for people who cannot work due to disabilities, like Social Security. For lower-income residents, the appropriate program is often Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
The problem is that the application process for SSI can take a year or two, if not longer. In the meantime, how would you make ends meet?
District residents used to be able to depend on Interim Disability Assistance (IDA), temporary aid provided by the city during the long SSI application process.
However, in the last several years, local funding for IDA has been reduced drastically, leaving many vulnerable residents languishing on a waitlist without a means of survival.
IDA provides an income of $270 a month – or about $9 a day – to individuals who are waiting for their SSI application to be approved and have no other means of support. Although $270 may not seem like a lot, recipients depend on this money for rent (often rent shared with others), prescriptions, and necessities like toothpaste. Without IDA, many people with disabilities– who cannot work and have no other income – are forced to rely on more costly emergency services, such as emergency rooms and shelters, thus costing the District more.
Furthermore, if the SSI application is approved, the federal government reimburses the District for IDA assistance paid during the application period, thus helping to fund the program. DC’s recovery rate is in line with similar state programs across the U.S.
This small monthly payment has a real impact on the residents who receive it. As an example, Ms. C was the head of a painting crew and then worked at a restaurant. Her mental illnesses have worsened in recent years and she developed a seizure disorder and arthritis, so she cannot continue working. Ms. C takes 10 different prescriptions and was hospitalized for a week when her medications were stolen. With IDA, she could afford the $1 co-pays for each replacement prescription could get her refills each month. Having a steady income from IDA has kept Ms. C on her medications and out of the hospital during the more than two years she has waited for a decision on her SSI application. (For more stories about IDA, please see here).
Despite the benefits of IDA for recipients and the federal SSI reimbursement, local funding for IDA has been reduced from $5.6 million in FY 2008 to just $1.5 million in the current fiscal year.
Only 1,200 residents are able to receive assistance each month compared to 2,900 in previous years. Without further investment by the Mayor, it is expected that fewer residents will be able to receive assistance even though the need will remain unchanged.
Restoring IDA is one of the recommendations of the Fair Budget Coalition this year. To get more information on the Fair Budget Coalition and their campaign to truly Make One City Possible please visit their website at http://makeonecitypossible.com/.