Benefits Attorney Katie Scott went to Olympia recently to support increased funding for programs that can mean the difference between housing and homelessness. This is her testimony to the House Appropriations Committee:
Good afternoon. My name is Katie Scott and I am a Public Benefits Attorney at Solid Ground in King County. I am here in support of Governor Inslee’s proposal to appropriate $29.6 million dollars to increase the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) assistance amount from $197 per month to $400 per month.
In my role as a Public Benefits Attorney, I represent people who are applying for or trying to maintain ABD benefits, all of whom are in some stage of application for federal disability benefits. My clients are often severely disabled and struggle to survive on $197 per month while they wait for federal assistance. $197 per month doesn’t go very far – particularly in King County – however, I have seen it mean the difference between homelessness and housing for my clients. Many of my clients with disabilities are eligible for some kind of subsidized housing program; those who are lucky enough to get a spot in those programs can maintain their housing by paying a percentage of their ABD grant.
Increasing the grant to $400 per month is not only the right thing to do for our most vulnerable Washington state residents but will open up more housing opportunities – rooms can be rented at $400 per month (even in the Western part of the state) and utility bills can be paid.
I emphasize housing, because without housing there is little hope for my clients. On the streets, they don’t receive important notices, they miss medical and mental health appointments, what few possessions they have are lost, destroyed or stolen – including important records and documents. On the streets, I can’t reach them and neither can a social security attorney. On the streets, they get sicker.
Improved transportation and communication are other benefits I see with a $400 per month ABD grant. My clients often need and can’t afford bus tickets and minutes for their phones. It is difficult under the best of circumstances to submit, supplement and track a federal disability application. It is nearly impossible, if you are homeless and disabled, without transportation or a phone. By providing ABD recipients with more opportunities for stability, the chance of a timely and successful federal disability application goes up, benefiting not only the client, but also the state, that will be reimbursed for what it paid out in ABD. Thank you.
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 Usually 30%, or approximately $60 per month.  Sampling from Craigslist on 1/10/2017, 114 hits for room with max rent $400: $400 Room in nice Ballard House (Ballard), Room for rent $325 (Hoquiam), LAKE CITY STUDIO $300 (North Seattle), One Room Available $375 (Tacoma), Room for rent for single person $300 (Lakewood)  Utility Estimate Schedule, Seattle Housing Authority: In Seattle, Section 8 recipients pay, on average, $40 – $175 per month for utilities, on top of rent.  Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP), Metro King County: A reduced fare permit is $3, and the monthly bus fare for people living with disabilities in King County is $36.  Homelessness and SSI: Comparing SSI applications for individuals accepted and denied disability income, DePaul University: “Though one can gain income through Supplemental Security Income (SSI), only 19.6% of individuals with a disability are receiving SSI benefits (Erickson et al., 2012). Because of these disparities in income resources, it is important to recognize that the homeless disabled population is a particularly marginalized population. … However it was reported that only 10-15% of homeless people received benefits from SSI and SSDI assistance. The lack of use of SSI and SSDI benefits by the homeless and disabled populations could be a result of the application process and the specific criteria for receiving assistance. … Homelessness could add stress, create an unstable and chaotic environment for medical needs and medication monitoring, and change priorities … when it comes to putting medical or mental health needs first.”