November 23, 2010

A Loan of Hope – The Interim Disability Program

This blog post brought to you by beloved former volunteer corps member, Lucas Sharma.

It is almost Thanksgiving, a time for reflecting with close family and friends. Our reflections center on what we are thankful for, especially as we look on our many blessings over this past year.

One specific District program that is especially important to me is the Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) Program. IDA provides a small income ($270) each month to residents waiting the long months (even years) between their initial disability application and approval from the Social Security Administration. Clients I worked with applying for disability are unable to work, and thus depend on this program to have their basic necessities met. One notable aspect of this program is that the Social Security Administration repays the District government when a client’s social security is approved.

One client of mine I’ve written about before is Mr. S. When he was approved for his disability income after seeking legal representation at Bread for the City, he explained to me how crucial IDA had been to his stabilization. Chronically homeless and suffering from a long litany of impairments ranging from HIV to chronic leg pain to severe depression, IDA provided a “loan of hope” to Mr. S. He was proud to say that he was able to repay that loan, allowing someone else to have hope as they waited for their disability decision.

Another story that sticks with me is Anthony Brown, who was interviewed for Beyond Bread this spring when the City Council made $6 million in cuts to the program.

Our city has already cut more than $120 million from the safety net programs that people like Anthony depend on. Rather than more cuts, let’s ask more of those who have suffered the least in the recession. Right now, DC’s top tax rate (8.5%) starts at $40,000 a year. An increase of one percentage point in the rate for the highest-earning 5% (those with income above $200,000) would bring in at least $65 million in new revenue. It’s a small contribution for high-income households, roughly equal to the price of a large coffee each day, but makes an enormous difference for the quality of life in our city.

If you care about this issue, send an email to Chairman Vince Gray and ask him to take a balanced approach and protect the programs you care about.

As you reflect on what you’re thankful for, take some time to consider what changes you would make in your budget, to ensure our city can invest in an economic recovery that includes everyone. What tax structure would be fair and just? Would you be willing to give up the equivalent of a large coffee a day?

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I am thankful for IDA’s impact on the residents of DC, and for the ways Mr. S, Anthony Brown, and Bread have blessed me this year.

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