The Senate and House have cleared the passage of a year-end $1.7 trillion appropriations bill that will affect people with disabilities on several fronts.
The bill, which runs more than 4,000 pages and includes a wide variety of legislation, heads to President Biden next for his signoff.
The Bill's Benefits for People With Disabilities
Here is a breakdown of some of the bill's highlights related to supporting individuals across the disabled community:
Open an ABLE Account – The new bill includes a welcome adjustment to the age at which an individual is eligible to open an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account.
ABLE accounts permit people with disabilities to save up to $100,000, tax-free, without fear of losing certain federal disability benefits.
Previously, you could only set up such an account if you had become disabled prior to age 26. Starting in 2026, you will be eligible for an ABLE account if you became disabled before age 46.
It has been estimated that this change will make more than 6 million additional people eligible to open these types of savings accounts.
Opt to live in your community –The Money Follows the Person (MFP) Program has been helping people with disabilities who wish to live independently in their own home or a community setting, rather than in a nursing home, since 1972. Seniors enrolled in Medicaid also benefit from this program.
The newly passed bill extends MFP through September 2027.
Secure affordable housing with support services – The Housing for Persons With Disabilities Program has received an increase in funding of $8 million.
This program seeks to aid people with disabilities with very limited income in living independently within their community by securing housing that is within their means and offers supportive services.
Where Lawmakers Fell Short
While these provisions may positively impact certain people with disabilities across the nation, disability advocates point to shortcomings that remain following the passage of the year-end spending bill.
For one, the omnibus will allow states to begin disenrolling from Medicaid anyone they consider no longer eligible for the program. During the public health emergency that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government had required states to renew Medicaid enrollees automatically.
As of April 1, 2023, however, states will again be able to carry out their re-evaluations of Medicaid enrollees. It is estimated that tens of millions of Americans will eventually lose their coverage.
SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act
In addition, proposed legislation meant to offer stronger financial support to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries was ultimately not included in the final bill.
Known as the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act, the legislation had sought to push the asset limit for SSI beneficiaries up from $2,000 to $10,000. For couples, the bill had proposed increasing the asset threshold from $3,000 to $20,000. It would have been the first adjustment to the program's asset limits in almost 40 years.