Washington, D.C., Feb. 2 – As a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, RespectAbility has invited all candidates in the presidential race on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.
Question 11 in the Questionnaire was: “The federal law and benefits system punish people who want to work or whose families want to help them. For example, currently people with disabilities who are on SSI are prohibited of having more than $2,000 liquid assets at any one time. Furthermore, current law limits parents and grandparents to helping their children financially who acquired their disability prior to age 26 but not if they acquire a disability after age 26. What will you do to ensure that people have more options than being forced to choose between access to supports, benefits and service or the opportunity to pursue work, careers and an income?”
Below, read the answers from the five candidates who responded:
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
“I will protect Supplemental Security Income unlike President Trump, who has proposed large cuts–with the most pernicious and harmful of these cuts being targeted towards poor children with disabilities. My administration will update critical SSI thresholds. The $65 threshold was set in 1974 and is not indexed to inflation or earnings growth. It is time to make sure it rises in line with median wage growth every year.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
“Senator Klobuchar pushed for the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which was signed into law in 2014, to allow people with disabilities to use tax-advantaged savings accounts to cover expenses like education, transportation, and housing. As President, she will support its continued implementation and champion legislation that she co-sponsors in the Senate to expand ABLE accounts to people who develop a disability before they turn 46 rather than 26 under current law.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders
“It is unacceptable that we force people with disabilities to spend down so they qualify for SSI and force recipients off the program if they see a small sum of money come in that puts them over the asset threshold. When Bernie is in the White House, he will eliminate the asset threshold to ensure people with disabilities get the benefits they need. He will also remove barriers and disincentives to work for benefits recipients and remove the marriage penalty from benefits.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
“To build economic security for people with disabilities, we must rewrite the rules of government programs that trap them in poverty. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is meant to provide financial security to people with disabilities when they are unable to work or are facing structural barriers to engaging in the workforce. But low monthly payments and punitive eligibility terms trap beneficiaries in poverty, punish them for receiving support from friends and family, and can even force them to choose between critical benefits and marrying the person they love.”
Mr. Andrew Yang
“People with disabilities who use government assistance should not be forced to choose between necessary benefits and meaningful employment. The Freedom Dividend will rewrite the rules of how our support systems work by doing the opposite of what our current welfare system does: it will empower people to participate in the workforce. Since the Freedom Dividend is unconditional, people with disabilities can become employed without fear of losing essential supports, treatments, or services.”
RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. RespectAbility does not rate or endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes as voters go to the polls. RespectAbility has reached out to all of the presidential campaigns and will be posting all responses on The RespectAbility Report. View more coverage of 2020 presidential candidates.