Roads to Financial Independence for Persons with Disabilities in the U.S.

> Posted by Center Staff

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Can you confidently speak to the financial inclusion of persons with disabilities (PwDs)? How about the proportion of PwDs that live below the poverty line? …The prevalence of disabilities?

The financial and economic hardships of PwDs don’t get much mainstream attention. You, if you’re like most, don’t know that in the United States, for example, about one-fifth of the population (roughly 60 million) has a disability, PwDs are twice as likely to use informal financial services like payday lenders and check cashers, the unemployment rate for PwDs is more than double the national average, and about one-third of adult PwDs live in poverty. These statistics are severe. Not to mention, current demographic shifts will result in larger older adult populations and position the incidence of disability, and the magnitude of these unmet inclusion needs, to grow.

Last week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a mainstream U.S. financial player, announced an initiative that will work in concert with financial empowerment and disability organizations to tackle these pressing issues.

The initiative, ROADS to Financial Independence, targets PwDs who are working or transitioning into the workforce and is built around in-person financial counseling that is integrated within other disability support services – for example, independent living and employment assistance. Harnessing the outreach and high-touch in-person interfacing of its partner disability organizations, ROADS enables individuals to work towards their greater financial stability, with experts, and in accessible and trusted venues.

With steep challenges to accessing formal financial services and employment, money management for persons with disabilities can be an uphill battle. In the United States, for example, four out of five PwDs don’t have an emergency fund they can turn to during times of crisis. ROADS, following an initial assessment of each participant’s financial standing, engages participants to work with their counselor to set goals and devise plans to reach them, and provides guidance on things like setting a budget, opening a bank account, improving credit, and increasing savings. Participants will also have access to tools and trainings to further support financial capability building.

ROADS is piloting in six communities across the United States. Nineteen partner organizations are involved, including United Way Central Alabama, Capital Area Asset Builders of Washington, D.C., Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, and the Ithaca Housing Authority of central New York State.

Throughout the initiative, participants’ financial statuses and behaviors will be tracked to better discern which interventions are working, and which aren’t. ROADS will share lessons learned to support disability inclusion and economic empowerment broadly. For greater disability inclusion in the United States, and globally, we’ll look forward to these insights!

Have you read?

CFPB Gives Voice to Clients

Barriers Persist in Financial Inclusion for PwDs

Americans Don’t Shop for Mortgages

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