Press Release
NPWF Releases Recommendations to End the Poverty Trap for Disabled Women

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 26, 2024 – Today, the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF) announced the release of two new installments of the “Disability Economic Justice Systems Transformation Guide.” The report on wealth building, timed to coincide with Financial Literacy Month, discusses the problems disabled women face in building wealth – from the barriers to growing their savings, to navigating the accumulation of medical and student loan debt – even with benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in place. Disabled people are more than twice as likely to experience poverty as nondisabled people, and disabled women of color are even more likely to live in poverty.

The reports explain the policies and practices that would help uplift disabled women and families, and include a focus on critical reforms to public benefit programs and proposals that would allow disabled women and families to save money, build wealth and thrive – and particularly women of color who face multiple barriers and biases.

Within each guide, leaders and advocates will find a series of recommendations, including the following:

  • Congress should pass the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act, and eliminate marriage penalties for disabled people who receive certain public benefits. These changes would eliminate asset limits, and allow increases to the monetary benefits disabled people receive.
  • States and the federal government should increase outreach and information sharing to ensure eligible households are enrolled in critical aid programs and simplify application processes for public benefits. One example is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. 41 percent of households that are a part of LIHEAP have a disabled family member.
  • The federal government must address student loan debt and cancel student loans owed for attending specific for-profit colleges with abusive and fraudulent practices. Many for-profit institutions target disabled people, women, people of color, veterans, people at the intersections of these identities and people from other marginalized communities.
  • Congress must renew and expand funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP is currently winding down due to a lack of renewed funding, but disabled women – particularly disabled women of color – are more likely to face barriers to internet broadband access. At the same time, they rely on this access for improved health care options, accessible communication, community integration and more.
  • Federal and state policymakers should prioritize fighting abusive medical debt collection and reporting practices, which harm disabled women.

“Our Systems Transformation Guide to Disability Economic Justice breaks new ground in outlining what meaningful policy change looks like at the intersection of economic, disability and gender justice. This report centers the experiences and challenges of disabled women, who have historically been left out of policy conversations,” said Jocelyn C. Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “With about 22 million women in the United States reporting a disability, this research is intended to help policymakers better serve disabled people. This guide will be especially helpful in improving opportunities and strengthening the economic stability of Indigenous and Black women, who are more likely to be disabled.”

“As we recognize Financial Literacy Month, this piece serves as a reminder that financial literacy alone does not, and cannot, lift disabled women out of poverty,” said Marissa Ditkowsky, policy counsel for disability at the National Partnership for Women & Families. “We need to make substantial systemic and policy changes to allow disabled women to thrive.”

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About the National Partnership for Women & Families

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family.

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