- by Lou Ann Kibbee
Hello Everyone! So the 2020 Kansas State Legislative session began January 13th. Governor Kelly gave her State of the State speech on January 16th. Disability advocates work throughout the year to make changes for Kansans with disabilities to live independently in their homes and community they choose to live. But during the legislative session, we are even busier watching what the legislators and the Administration are doing, so they do not make changes that would affect our lives negatively, as well as work with other organizations to make positive changes for us all.
Last year's legislative session, we partnered with other organizations to educate legislators about the Protected Income Level (PIL) and Client Obligation (CO). They learned from individuals with disabilities who pay Client Obligations, that they could use that money for other necessities in life, such as healthier foods, toilet paper, and utilities. In response, the legislators put in the final budget of the 2019 session to raise the Protected Income Level to $1,177 (equivalent to 150% of SSI) for a year. Advocates requested they raise the Protected Income Level to 300% of SSI which would be around $2,250.
The increase to $1,177 was a huge step and helped many individuals so they don’t have to pay the Client Obligation anymore. This year some of the legislators are looking at putting the increase of 150%, hence the $1,177, permanently in law, whereas some of the Administration may prefer to make the change in regulation. Advocates, on the other hand, will still educate legislators about the need to get the Protected Income Level increased to 300%. Although the $1,177 increase benefitted a lot of individuals who receive Home and Community-Based Services and pay Client Obligations, there is still some in our community who pays this monthly fee. Individuals who receive Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) have earned this monthly income by building work credits with the Social Security Administration as you make income through employment. Contrary to what many people believe, SSDI is not "welfare." We have earned these funds to be available in the future in case of disability, and eventual retirement. Individuals with incomes above the current Protected Income Level of $1,177 worked to make sure they would have a higher income of Social Security when they needed it, but they are being punished by having to pay a Client Obligation because they need Home and Community-Based Services to stay in their home. Advocates believe this is not right, nor fair!
So we are looking for individuals with disabilities that use Home and Community-Based Services and still pay Client Obligations that are willing to do a short video (1-2 minutes) about how their life would be better if they did not have to pay this monthly fee.
• What would you use this money for?
• How could it improve your life?
The individual testimonies made the biggest difference last year in getting the increase, so that is what we need this year.
Next month I will talk about some other things we are working on and give you an update on the work above.