There are a number of federal, private, and local-government programs that help individuals with disabilities cover the cost of living, home repairs, and other necessities. These safety nets are intended to benefit the one in five Americans who will face either long- or short-term disabilities. Some offer cash compensation, while others provide for specific needs. Read on for more information.

Heating and cooling

All 50 states offer assistance helping low income and disabled families heat and cool their homes. Most programs outline specific requirements, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which offers cash to help pay utility bills as well as make weatherization repairs. Other programs offered by the USDA provide low-interest loans for specific purposes.

Home modifications

Heroes at Home, in partnership with Rebuilding Together, offers veterans no-cost home modification for active duty military and veterans. The program’s first recipient, Sgt. Ryan Major, was honored by the program with a wheelchair-accessible bathroom, bedroom, deck, landscaping, and other upgrades to make his and his family’s live easier. Other programs to offset costs for these kinds of modifications include Specially Adapted Housing grants (SAH), Special Home Adaptation grants (SHA), Home Improvement and Structural Alteration (HISA) grants, and other active single-family housing repair loans and grants.

Medical

People with disabilities have multiple healthcare coverage options, including Medicare and Medicaid. More information on coverage (as well as rights and protections) can be found at HealthCare.gov. Healthcare questions may also be directed to the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by calling 800-318-2596 or TTY at 855-889-4325.

Employment

Finding work is difficult when you have a disability, since most businesses simply can’t accommodate the unique needs of alternately-abled individuals. For those who are unable to leave their homes, there are a number of lucrative careers, such as tech support and customer service, that can be handled remotely. The federal government – which is the largest employer in the United States – offers selective placement for persons with disabilities. Visit OPM.gov for more information regarding disability employment.

Housing

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers non-elderly families the opportunity to participate in the Section 8 housing program via Certain Development Vouchers. Rental assistance through these programs cover Section 8 new construction projects, state housing, and Section 202 housing. Families receiving these vouchers must locate a property that accepts this form of payment, but they are not restricted to a single city.

Food

The average American consumes more than $2,600 worth of food each year. For people on a limited income due to age or disability, this can eat up a significant portion of available funds. SNAP benefits were designed to supplement a family’s food budget. Those who receive federal or state disability may be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Most major cities additionally have a Meals on Wheels or similar food delivery service for homebound individuals.

Education

Paying for college is difficult when you are also limited by your ability to work. However, there are a number of grants for students with special needs that will help cover the cost of tuition. The National Federation for the Blind, for example, offers generous scholarships ranging from $3,000-$12,000 to eligible students each year. The Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation is another organization that offers financial assistance for qualifying students diagnosed with the condition.

In addition to direct financial assistance, there are hundreds of organizations across the country that offer benefits to the special needs community. Easter Seals, for instance, offers resources for adults and children with autism and other disabilities. United Cerebral Palsy is an excellent resource for people seeking to live independently through their disability. Goodwill Industries provides financial coaching, after-school programs, clothing assistance, and employment opportunities for those with physical and cognitive impairments.

To see if you qualify for federally-funded disability benefits, enter your information into the Benefit Finder.

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