Progressing economic well-being and pathways out of poverty through financial and entitlements literacy.

U.S. Census data is compelling—one in five American households report an experience of disability, and of those, one in three are living in poverty. Disability has been found to be both a cause and consequence of poverty which can lead to living, learning and earning barriers which result in education, employment and economic hardship. The poverty rate for people with disabilities is over two times higher than that for people without disabilities. Disability and poverty go hand-in-hand and people with disabilities are much more likely to experience material hardships such as difficulty meeting basic subsistence needs and getting medical care—leaving them challenged to find a pathway out of poverty and a life of dependence on public entitlements.

The Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability strives to improve the lives and economic well-being of individuals with disabilities. One way to do so is by opening the workforce to these individuals. Financial and benefits literacy is a critical skill that needs to be developed in order to reach financial and personal independence. While the number of disability programs has grown exponentially over the past two decades to over 250, the rules governing the programs are complicated, leaving the individuals with disabilities who want to navigate a path to greater economic and independence challenged. Despite government’s efforts to create a number of new policy solutions to support these pathways out of poverty, they have yet to realize their full potential impact.

YTI attempts to support these new policy solutions in recognizing their full potential in three ways:

  1. Through our coursework we train practitioners—equipping them to develop comprehensive benefits analysis and work incentives plans to support full employment. YTI currently offers a 16-course certificate program to equip benefits and work incentives practitioners, as well as works in collaboration with other University partners to advance federally-sponsored work incentives planning and assistance.
  2. Through our research we test new and innovative policy and practice solutions to gain a better understanding of what the right mix of services and supports are to maximize individual employment, education, and economic outcomes. YTI is currently mid-stream in a statewide research demonstration to test new approaches for ensuring the successful school to work transition of youth and their families who receive Supplemental Security Income.
  3. Through our technical assistance and consultation we work with external stakeholders to build their state and local capacity to meet the benefits and work incentives planning needs of individuals with disabilities. YTI is currently involved with four states in increasing systems capacities to be response to the needs of individuals with disabilities who receive public entitlements.
  4. Through direct support we have helped countless individuals achieve their economic and employment goals. Joseph was a homeless individual who lived in the State of Maryland. He contacted the Institute requesting a scholarship for the Work Incentive Planner credentialing course. We worked with Joseph to secure computer access at his local public library and provided him with a full scholarship for the course. Today, Joseph is a credentialed work incentives planner and works full time for the State of Maryland providing both planning services and an example of success to his client population.
  5. The social insurance team at the Yang-Tan Institute has used its skill and knowledge to provide direct results for public benefits recipients with disabilities across the United States in order to bring work, financial well-being and community participation into their lives.