How Can I Support AFI IDA Participants with Disabilities?
The first step in supporting individuals with disabilities is by making sure good candidates with disabilities know about the wonderful opportunities afforded by participation in an AFI IDA program.
Encourage Individuals with Disabilities to Participate in AFI IDA Programs
The Assets for Independence (AFI) program supports agencies and community-based groups across the nation, as well as two state programs, that run Individual Development Account (IDA) projects to help low-income individuals and their families build their economic assets. There are AFI grantees in virtually all states, and new ones being funded each year!
The first step in supporting individuals with disabilities is by making sure good candidates with disabilities know about the wonderful opportunities afforded by participation in an AFI IDA program. The best way to start is by finding out who the AFI grantees are in your community and state! The Office of Community Services makes this a fairly simple task by providing a directory of the projects.
One important thing to be aware of as you begin exploring IDA programs is that the grantee organization listed on the website may be working with a network of community partners to deliver IDAs and related services to participants. Many AFI grantees have found that developing partnerships with other organizations to serve as IDA service sites makes it possible to offer IDAs across a wider geographic region. Depending on the specific arrangement, these partners may be allocated a certain number of IDA slots by the grantee. They may manage the local recruitment, initial eligibility screening and intake, financial education, and case management support, including referrals to other community partners.
So, when you meet or talk with the AFI grantee in your area, make sure to inquire if they have sub-grantees and if so, what these partners do on a day to day basis. It will be important to find out which agency or organizations beneficiaries should be referred to and the process for doing so. Some of these partners may have experience working with people with disabilities.
Other program requirements and characteristics that vary by grantee and that you will want to be familiar with include the asset goals that the program offers (home ownership, business capitalization, and/or post-secondary education and training), the IDA match rate (e.g., 2:1, 3:1), and the requirements set by the program for participant contributions and savings period.
Support Participation in Financial Education Programs
For financial education to be effective for individuals with disabilities, it must address the big financial picture which includes not only earnings, monthly expenses and savings, but benefit supports as well. An added dimension of personal financial education for people with disabilities is the whole area of "benefits literacy." This means acquiring a basic understanding of the internal workings of public income maintenance programs such as Social Security disability benefits, Medicaid or Medicare, Food Stamps, rental assistance or any other income support the person receives. Far too often, beneficiaries of these programs and their families find themselves completely unaware of the rules governing eligibility and benefit amount for these programs. Because they do not understand the rules, they sometimes make decisions that inadvertently cause financial harm. Traditionally, public support programs have not taken an "educational approach" with users--that is, case workers overloaded with enormous caseloads have little time to make sure beneficiaries understand the complex regulations surrounding benefits. The problem is that when beneficiaries and their families are unaware or unclear on the rules--particularly with regard to savings and asset accumulation--they are unable to direct the course of their benefits.
Help Individuals with Disabilities Understand how Participating in an AFI IDA will affect Social Security Administration (SSA) Disability Benefits
Finally, disability services professionals possess a wealth of information related to the SSA disability benefit programs and the effects of work, earnings and IDA participation on benefits. This is information that AFI IDA participants, their families, guardians and caregivers have a tremendous need for! Additional resources regarding the interaction of disability benefit programs and IDAs are available on this website.