Nye-Lengerman Testifies Before U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging

Publication date: 
July 15, 2018

Unemployment, underemployment, and poverty disproportionately affect people with disabilities and their families, yet research demonstrates that persons with disabilities are highly motivated workers with lower absenteeism and turnover, and higher rates of productivity. On Wednesday, July 18, before the Dirksen State Office Building in Washington, DC, ICI's Kelly Nye-Lengerman testified on this issue at the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on, "Supporting Economic Stability and Self-Sufficiency as Americans with Disabilities and Their Families Age." The issue has attracted the subcommittee's attention, in part, because, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is 4%, but 78% of people with disabilities experience unemployment. People with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty compared with those without a disability (27 percent vs. 11 percent). The average household income for a family with a disability is nearly 45 percent less than the average U.S. household. 

"Many Americans with disabilities and their families are in a precarious situation, and employment is the primary pathway out of poverty," says Nye-Lengerman. "Supporting the employment of people with disabilities at any age is critical to ensuring their long-term economic security and well-being, and maximizing their contributions as citizens. 

"Many public support programs inadvertently keep individuals and families in poverty in order to maintain eligibility," she adds. "Support programs are critical lifelines for individuals and families but do little to assist in lifting them out of poverty long-term. Promising policy pathways that support employment, increased earnings, and saving opportunities for people with disabilities and their families include: The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE), Self-Directed Supports, paid family leave, and tax credits to offset out-of-pocket caregiving and disability-related expenses. Long-term investments can lead to long-term gains to increase economic security of individuals with disabilities and their families." 

Nye-Lengerman is an ICI research associate who focuses on lifespan issues related to community living for people with disabilities, employment, anti-poverty initiatives, public support programs, and workforce development.

Nye-Lengerman's recorded testimony before the committee can be viewed here, at timecode 34 minutes.