In California, spending on adults with disabilities differs by ‘race and place’ – in a very different way from the way the federal government classifies people: in terms of ability, not income.
The numbers are in.
“If you are blind and have a disability, you probably don’t make anywhere near what the average person makes, no matter how hard you work,” said Amy Lutz, a demographer with the nonprofit National Research Group Inc., in a phone interview.
As Lutz recently shared in a blog post about a report on adults with disabilities, the differences in how people use their public assistance benefits are not just a matter of how much money they receive but also their income, and even what they earn on a cash-basis.
That means people on disability programs, such as Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, are not all exactly equal, especially when it comes to how much they’re getting paid by taxpayers in California.
It can be a real struggle to get that same income in many cases – or to even keep the same income.
On the other end, the federal government classifies people as low-income when they or someone they’re related to earn low-income, or as severely disabled if they either get Medicare but don’t get Social Security Disability, or don’t get Social Security Disability but get Medicare.
California classifies people by ability, not income
The two sides of the disability divide aren’t just the product of different government classifications.
Both are a matter of how state and federal budgets are run, said Lutz, a researcher for the National Research Group, and are also influenced by what local governments and private agencies decide to fund.
In California, for example, the government provides services to people who earn minimum wage, up to a cap of $10,850 – more than $12,000 for a family of four.
But it’s the people below that income level who are most in need, Lutz said.
“They are the ones who cannot make ends meet,” she said. “They’re at the lower end of the income spectrum, and they have to get help to make ends meet.”
That can leave a lot of people on disability programs, she said.
“It depends on how they get the income,” she said. “Some can get it