Categories
Ask Mike Blog Covid-19 Disability

Investing in Impact: The IMAGE Center provides solutions in a Pandemic Year

2020 was a year of unexpected challenges and opportunities. On March 13, we closed to our office due to the lockdown but were immediately serving consumers remotely without a gap in service on Monday, March 16, 2020! While many other organizations were still figuring out how work remotely and deliver services, IMAGE staff used their skills and ingenuity to find solutions to the challenges of serving clients during the lockdown!

  • We launched a weekly live Zoom broadcast to increase connection among the community, provide an opportunity to find out what needs our neighbors are experiencing, and to serve as a reliable source of information during the Pandemic. Over the summer, we partnered with the other Centers for Independent Living around the state of Maryland to expand the conversation state-wide.
  • Nursing homes and other congregate living settings were identified early-on as high-risk for the spread of Covid-19. Working with our state partners, we were able to provide feedback to change federal regulations regarding the ability of individuals to leave nursing homes without losing their place in line for waiver services.
  • Our first success story involved getting a gentleman out of a nursing facility and back to his home while he waited. Our Ramp Loan program helped create access to his home.
  • We’ve been a voice advocating for people with disabilities regarding transportation, services, food distribution, and access to vaccines. You can see some of our efforts in the Baltimore Sun and on WYPR.
  • Our VME program did a one of a kind remote rollator repair for a woman via Zoom in April!
  • Our school engineering teams expanded adding MIT to the fold.
  • We started a partnership with Milbat, a nonprofit in Israel serving people with disabilities.

All of this was accomplished on top of our core services! With a small but mighty staff and limited funding we served over 25,000 people with disabilities last year. We are not stopping here. We have bigger plans for 2021 including doubling our supports services for Veterans, adding supports planning to our existing portfolio of services, building a community lending library of assistive technology devices, and continuing the weekly Zoom events. You can partner with us by investing in our programming so we can continue to serve and advocate for people with disabilities.

You can invest in IMAGE in a several ways:

  • If you don’t have a urgent need for your stimulus money, please help build our Covid-19 Lifeline Impact Fund.
  • A recurring gift is a fantastic way for you to routinely support our expanded portfolio of services. Every gift makes a difference!
  • Talk to your employer about Matching Gifts! Many area companies match employee volunteer hours and donations which is a great way to double your investment.

We’ve compiled a Performance Report of our activities for 2020. The infographic shows the impact of IMAGE during the Pandemic year. Invest in IMAGE for 2021 so we can do even more! We’ve provided the report as visual images, a PDF file, and a text transcription.

IMAGE Center 2020 Performance Report Infographic page 1. Full text version available below.
IMAGE Center 2020 Performance Report Infographic page 2. Full text version available below.

We appreciate your continued support of the IMAGE Center through this difficult year. We look forward to a better 2021 where we can be together in person and do even more!

Categories
Blog Covid-19 Live Chat

Getting your shot at the shot! I AM March 15, 2021

Getting your shot at the shot!

Let’s chat about the current state of getting vaccinated in Maryland! Some of the issues facing people with disabilities were discussed in this article from WYPR! What has been your experience?

This week’s I AM will be our latest update. We’ll talk about strategies for getting an appointment.  Don’t miss this informative and provocative look at where we are.

To Register for future events or donate to support visit: https://bit.ly/2XFUvuk

Comments and links from the Chat during the Zoom session:

Categories
Bridges Blog

Limitations on Resources for SSI Eligibility

The third in a five-part series: Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series.

This month, the Free Bridges Helpdesk Transition Tip Tuesdays explores the potential impact of Social Security benefits on young blind/low vision adults. In this third installment of the series, we review how Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility imposes limitations on resources.

What do resources have to do with SSI?

As noted in March 2’s Transition Tip, “SSI helps disabled people who have little or no income by providing a monthly cash payment.” so SSI eligibility is not just based on disability. Last week’s Transition Tip explored income limits for SSI. This week, we examine how a person’s resources can impact SSI eligibility.

Whose resources count?

SSI for a child

If the person with a qualifying SSI disability is younger than 18, a portion of the resources of parents and step-parents with whom the lives are usually counted (“deemed”) in determining the child’s eligibility. For specific questions, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

SSI for an adult

One month after an individual turns 18 years old, the individual is considered an adult for SSI purposes, and their parents’ resources are no longer counted. Only resources in the adult’s name that can be controlled by the adult are counted.

Please note: if a parent claims an adult child is a dependent on their taxes, this can negatively impact the adult child’s SSI benefits. It is important to get expert advice based on your personal situation.

Resources

What are resources?

For SSI purposes, resources include things you own our have control of. They include cash, bank accounts, and investments. They also include land and personal property.

SSI payments are meant to help you obtain food and shelter; they are not meant to provide income. For individuals, the resource limit is $2,000. You are not entitled to an SSI payment for any month you are over this resource limit, and you will be required to pay back SSI if you have already received a monthly payment.

Exclusions

General exclusions

  • There is a list of things that are always excluded from resources, including one vehicle, some prepaid burial expenses, and some work-related property (if you are working).
  • Certain kinds of accounts that meet strict guidelines
  • Retroactive SSI payments (back payments owed) for nine months
  • Economic impact payments (EIP), as known as COVID stimulus payments
  • Other less-common exclusions

Spend down

  • In general, if your resources are too great, you will not be eligible for an SSI monthly payment until you “spend down” to the resource limit. (There are some exceptions.)
  • For certain items (like retroactive SSI payments and COVID stimulus payments), you have several months to spend down the funds before they will count as resources
  • There are specific rules about how to “spend down” resources, and it is important to follow these rules.

To find out more, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

Is there a way to save money for expenses and still receive SSI payments?

Yes. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts allow many individuals with disabilities to save money tax free in order to pay for certain expenses. Also, the first $100,000 if funds ABLE accounts do not count as resources for SSI or for several other federal benefit programs.

ABLE accounts can be a great savings vehicle for qualifying disabled people, whether or not they receive SSI. Each week in April, the Free Bridges Helpdesk’s Transition Tip Tuesdays will provide information to help you answer the question: “ABLE Accounts—Are They for Me?”

Next week, we review other benefits available to individuals receiving SSI, “More Than Just Money: Additional Benefits of Getting SSI” in the March 23 Tuesday Transition Tip from the Free Bridges Helpdesk.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series

Part 1: Disability Eligibility for SSI (March 2)

Part 2: Income Limits for SSI Eligibility (March 9)

Part 3: Limitations on Resources for SSI Eligibility (March 16)

Part 4: More Than Just Money: Additional Benefits of Getting SSI (March 23)

Part 5: How to Apply for SSI and What to Expect (March 30)

Categories
Blog Disability Live Chat

Support Groups: I AM March 8, 2021

The theme for the Independence Amplified Maryland session on Monday March, 8, 2021 was focused around introducing several support groups available in Maryland.

Recording of the Independence Amplified Maryland event from March 8, 2021.

Women Embracing Abilities Now (W.E.A.N.)Meetings on the 3rd Sunday 4pm. Contact Janice Jackson at 410-433-0614 ablejan@aol.com www.wean1.org. You can find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/weanqueens

Socky Bellamy: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (L.E.G.S.): For more information, please email: theextragents@gmail.com You can find the public group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/189997477713243

Maryland Trans Unity http://www.transunity.net/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MarylandTransUnity or for information on the Support Group, please contact the group at facilitators@transunity.net

Lighting Your Path: Navigating Your World and Enhancing Your Everyday Life  2nd Wednesday 1-3pm via Zoom. Please contact Rochelle Harrod at rharrod@innow.org for information or visit the Independence Now calendar: https://www.innow.org/event/lighting-your-path-03-2021/

Crystal Brockington: Live and Thrive on the Third Friday of Each Month. Contact Crystal at 443-219-7407 cbrockington@imagemd.org or Shannon at 240-638-0070.

Flyer for Live and Thrive Maryland. Information is also available as a downloadable PDF.

For more information about upcoming Independence Amplified Maryland broadcasts, visit our website where you can register or donate to support this program!

Categories
Bridges Blog Uncategorized

Income Limits for SSI Eligibility

The fifth in a five-part series: Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series.

This month, the Free Bridges Helpdesk Transition Tip Tuesdays explore the potential impact of Social Security benefits on young blind/low vision adults. In this second installment of the series, we explore income and resource limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility.

What do income and resources have to do with SSI?

“SSI helps disabled people who have little or no income by providing a monthly cash payment.” as noted in last week’s Transition Tip. For this reason, SSI eligibility is not just based on disability. An individual’s income and resources must meet certain guidelines in order for that individual to qualify for SSI. If these requirements are not met, the individual’s eligibility for SSI payments may be restricted for a short period of time or completely.

Whose income and resources count?

SSI for a child

If the person with a qualifying SSI disability is younger than 18, a portion of the income of parents and step-parents with whom the lives are usually counted (“deemed”) in determining the child’s eligibility. Some benefit payments are not included as income. For specific questions, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

SSI for an adult

One month after an individual turns 18 years old, the individual is considered an adult for SSI purposes, and their parents’ income is no longer counted. Only the adult’s income is counted.

Please note: if a parent claims an adult child is a dependent on their taxes, this can negatively impact the adult child’s SSI benefits. It is important to get expert advice based on your personal situation.

Income

What counts as income?

SSI considers four types of income:

  • Earned income, including wages, self-employment income, cash paid for work (like babysitting or lawn mowing), etc.
  • Unearned income, including cash gifts, other Social Security benefits, interest and dividends from investments, etc.
  • In-kind income, such as food or shelter provided for free or at less than market value
    • Includes cases where you live with someone (even your parent) for free.
    • If you are not paying rent or for food where you live, your monthly SSI payment will be cut by one-third.
    • The maximum SSI monthly benefit in 2021 is $794. A one-third reduction lowers that payment to $529.33—a reduction of 264.67 each month.
  • Deemed income, usually the income of a spouse, if you have one.

To find out more, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

Exclusions from unearned and earned income

General exclusion

  • The first $20 in ANY KIND of income per month is excluded from income.
  • This exclusion only counts once per month, even if you have two or more kinds of income.

Unearned income

  • Every dollar of unearned income over the general exclusion ($20) reduces your monthly SSI payment by one dollar.
  • Examples:
    • If you receive a gift of $20, your payment will not change.
    • If you receive a $150 gift in one month, that monthly payment will be reduced by $130.

Earned Income

  • In addition to the general exclusion ($20), the first $65 in earned income each month is excluded from income.
  • Every TWO dollars of earned income over the total exclusion ($65 + $20) reduces your monthly SSI payment by one dollar.
  • Example: You earn $175 and do not have unearned income
    • Your monthly exclusion is $85, so your earned income after exclusions is $90 ($175-$85). SSI counts half of that income: $45 ($90/2).
    • Your monthly SSI payment would decrease by $45 in a month when you earn $175.

Other earned income exclusions and deductions

  • Economic impact payments (EIP), as known as COVID stimulus payments
  • Exclusions of all work-related expenses for blind individuals
  • Student Earned Income Exclusion (available until you reach age 22)
  • Exclusions and benefits related to an approved PASS plan (plan to achieve self-support)
  • Impairment-related work expense (IRWE) deduction
  • Other miscellaneous exclusions

To find out more, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

Keep in mind

Cash gifts can disqualify you for SSI for the month you receive them.

  • Even gifts for birthdays, graduation, and other holidays count as income for SSI for the month in which you receive them.
  • You have the duty to report these gifts to SSI.

Next week, we will examine resources and how they can impact SSI eligibility with the “Limitations on Resources for SSI Eligibility” Tuesday Transition Tip from the Free Bridges Helpdesk. Note, SSI eligibility requires meeting disability, income, and resource requirements.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series

Part 1: Disability Eligibility for SSI (March 2)

Part 2: Income Limits for SSI Eligibility (March 9)

Part 3: Limitations on Resources for SSI Eligibility (March 16)

Part 4: More Than Just Money: Additional Benefits of Getting SSI (March 23)

Part 5: How to Apply for SSI and What to Expect (March 30)

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