According to a 2015 article published by NPR, those with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty than their nondisabled counterparts. I also receive Supplemental Security Income. I am one of the approximately eight million SSI beneficiaries in the United States. Unfortunately, SSI has an asset cap of $2,000 for a single person and $3,000 for a married couple. SSI often is spent on rent or utilities, which leaves very little money left over, and you cannot save money.
Living with a disability is very expensive. Disabled people often need a wheelchair-accessible van, medications, bath and shower chairs, and other specialized equipment and services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Health insurance often covers some of these costs but not always.
I also have some savings put away in an ABLE account for expenses related to my disability. I use this money to cover emergencies such as unexpected bills and other expenses. However, there are tax penalties if you use the funds for a nonqualified expense which includes buying gifts for other people or going on a vacation.
SSI is my only income right now as I try to get a job. Finding a job is especially difficult when you are disabled. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1 percent of people with disabilities in the United States worked in 2021. This is an increase from 17.9 percent in 2020.
I look forward to buying Christmas presents every year, but my budget is always tight. According to the NRF, we spent $650 of our roughly $1,000 holiday budget on gifts in 2020. According to Amazon, the most popular gifts were books, technology, and arts & crafts items. Apple AirPods Pro, as well as Kindles, Dutch Ovens, and Nintendo Switches, flew off the shelves, according to USA Today.
It isn’t easy because I enjoy being generous during the holidays. I always have less money after the holiday season. Hopefully, my gifts will always be meaningful regardless of how much money I spend. I anticipate needing to spend less on holiday gifts this year so I am able to afford necessities.
Disabled people shouldn’t have to worry about affording their meals or life-saving medication. Nobody should have to worry about this. All people deserve the security of knowing that they can afford all basic expenses. People shouldn’t go hungry or live on the street.
These issues impact those with disabilities disproportionately. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), disabled individuals faced food insecurity at a rate more than twice that of their non-disabled counterparts in 2020. Disabled people account for 38.6% of sheltered homeless people in America, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. We need to work together to help alleviate these issues within the disabled community.
Fessler, Pam. “Why Disability and Poverty Still Go Hand in Hand 25 Years After Landmark Law.” NPR, NPR, 23 July 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/07/23/424990474/why-disability-and-poverty-still-go-hand-in-hand-25-years-after-landmark-law.
“How Can Funds Be Used?” ABLE National Resource Center, ABLE National Resource Center, 10 Feb. 2021, https://www.ablenrc.org/get-started/what-can-funds-be-used-for/.
“Homelessness in America: Overview of Data and Causes.” The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2018, https://homelesslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Homeless_Stats_Fact_Sheet.pdf.
Ives-Rublee, Mia, and Christine Sloane. “Alleviating Food Insecurity in the Disabled Community.” Center for American Progress, Center for American Progress, 22 Nov. 2021, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/alleviating-food-insecurity-in-the-disabled-community/.
“Number of Recipients, 1974–2020.” Social Security Administration, Social Security Administration, 1 Dec. 2020, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/chartbooks/fast_facts/2021/fast_facts21.html.
“Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary – 2021.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm.
Spector, Nicole. “Here’s How Much Americans Spend on Christmas.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 13 Dec. 2021, https://www.yahoo.com/video/much-americans-spend-christmas-012114705.html.