President Joe Biden has raised the hopes of disability advocates by making more promises to the disability community than perhaps any other incoming president in U.S. history. The former vice president’s proposals range from strengthening enforcement against disability discrimination to substantially increasing the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly benefit. Here’s a quick overview with some of the highlights of Biden’s plans.
In May 2020, then-candidate Biden released a comprehensive disability rights plan encompassing civil rights and inclusion, health care, employment opportunities, economic security, education, affordable housing, transportation and technology, and global disability rights. “The Biden-Harris campaign laid out an ambitious plan to meet the needs of Americans with disabilities, and it is our sincere hope to see that plan carried out and fully implemented,” the National Disability Rights Network said in a news release.
While some proposals will require congressional action, Biden can act on others himself. Biden has assured advocates that he will appoint a White House director of disability policy. He plans to implement a long-standing proposal to make it easier for people with disabilities to stay independent in their community. He also intends to roll back President Trump’s public charge rule, which made it harder for immigrants with disabilities to obtain work permits.
Protections and Accommodations
President Biden has also pledged to direct his Department of Justice and other federal agencies to reinvigorate enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws. These agencies are also encouraged to review guardianship laws, protect the rights of parents with disabilities, and work with police departments to improve how they accommodate people with disabilities.
Biden also plans on restoring the overarching goal of shifting Medicaid funding away from institutional care and into integrated services. Reasserting affirmative action obligations to people with disabilities, protecting special education students in school discipline hearings, and expanding voting rights are also among the new administration’s goals.
Social Security Disability Updates
Proposals that would require Congressional legislation include a range of changes to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
According to his website, President Biden aims to tie the SSI benefit rate to at least 100% of the federal poverty line; this would effectively raise the average monthly benefit for an individual from $783 to about $1,060. He has also expressed an intention to institute a long-awaited increase to the SSI asset limit, although he has not specified a new limit.
For SSDI benefits, President-elect Biden has called for ending two burdensome waiting periods:
- The five-month wait between when recipients are approved for the program and when they begin receiving benefits
- The two-year wait before recipients are Medicare-eligible.
To protect Social Security’s financial stability, Biden would raise payroll taxes on people with annual incomes of more than $400,000 and change how annual Social Security increases are calculated using a different measurement known as the CPI-E.
Child and Family Care
On the campaign trail, Biden unveiled a $775 billion plan to assist family caregivers. “Families are squeezed emotionally and financially,” Biden said at the time. “They need help, but too often they can’t afford it. And the professional caregivers out there, the home health care workers, childcare workers...are too often underpaid, unseen, and undervalued." This strategy can drastically improve the home lives of many in the disability community by providing financial, emotional, and independence stability to those who need additional care.
Standardization of Minimum Wage
President-elect Biden has also called on Congress to abolish the controversial sub-minimum wages. Nationwide, more than 400,000 people with disabilities are legally paid wages less than the federal minimum wage. Sub-minimum wages are part of a long-standing Department of Labor program that awards certificates to employers to hire people deemed otherwise unemployable in the competitive market. Civil rights groups have long characterized the New Deal-era program as unethical and exploitative.
Many in the disability community and their activists are highly anticipating these changes. To learn more about Biden’s plans and how they may benefit you, read the full “Biden Plan for Full Participation and Equality for People with Disabilities.”
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