KENOSHA, Wis. — A new research report shows that the number of people with disabilities in Kenosha County struggling to afford basic living needs is currently at 50%.
Currently, the federal poverty level rate is at 17%, according to a new report from the United Way of Kenosha County and its research partner United for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).
“On the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we see that residents with physical, mental or emotional conditions who are struggling financially are not only being undercounted but underserved,” said Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., National Director for United for ALICE during a press release.
In 2019, although 17% of Kenosha residents with disabilities were living in poverty, about 32% of them were aligned with ALICE. People in ALICE households earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than what it costs to live and work in the modern economy.
In total, 50% of Kenosha’s 19,000 residents living with disabilities were below the ALICE threshold lines. This means they cannot afford the basic costs of housing, childcare, healthcare, transportation and a smartphone plan.
Hoopes noted that there is still work to do because having a disability puts individuals at substantial risk of not having financial instability, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also pointed out that rates of hardship are likely even higher than counted, because data is not available for individuals living in nursing homes, correctional facilities and other group settings.
The research also revealed that outdated federal guidelines prevent the majority of people with disabilities with financial hardships from accessing public assistance for critical needs.
81% of people with disabilities in Kenosha below the ALICE threshold did not receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), according to the report.
“Income eligibility requirements for SSI haven’t been updated in nearly four decades, which is one of the big reasons why more than 234,000 residents across our state were shut out of receiving a much United Way of Kenosha County needed financial lifeline,” says Carolynn Friesch, CEO at United Way of Kenosha County, in a press release. “By using data that takes into account the true cost of living — we can establish critical supports that help those who need it the most.”
The program requires recipients to have an income below the poverty level, be unable to work, have a “severe” impairment and have less than $2,000 in their bank accounts. If they are a married couple the amounts cannot be more than $3,000.
“Together, we can collectively build a stronger, more accessible, and more equitable community,” Friesch continued.
For more information, visit United Way of Kenosha County.