By David Leon, NENA Director
Director Workforce Programs
Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services
It’s April, which means it’s Financial Literacy Month! Now is the perfect time to think about how money, or a lack thereof, is impacting your clients’ abilities to reach their goals and how you can empower them on their journey toward financial independence. Here are a few easily accessible tools that may be helpful to the people that you serve:
ABLE Accounts – People receiving cash benefits often have difficulty saving money without jeopardizing their eligibility for other resource-restricted programs (SSI, Medicaid, food and/or housing assistance, etc). ABLE accounts allow individuals to save resources well-above $2,000 in a tax-advantaged account while maintaining access to their other programs! Contributions can be made directly to an account by friends and family (bypassing requirements for reporting unearned income when applicable), and funds can be used for a wide variety of goods and services that help the account holder Achieve a Better Life Experience (ABLE)!
VITA – Many people with disabilities are paying for assistance with tax preparation and/or are accepting costly refund anticipation loans. The IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) offers free tax assistance for individuals who are earning less than $54,000, have a disability, speak limited English or are Senior citizens. Use the link to find providers that meet your clients’ needs!
Financial Empowerment – Many Employment Networks and Vocational Rehabilitation agencies are adept at helping their clients find employment but are not equipped to support their client’s financial wellness. There are several curricula available that provide basic financial literacy instruction specifically designed to be accessible to people with disabilities. These can provide basic or detailed information on spending/savings plans, identity protection, understanding credit and credit scores, paying bills and other important topics. You may also choose to partner with nonprofits or financial institutions. Adding financial empowerment services may increase referrals and outcomes for your EN and the beneficiaries you serve.