Public Funding 101

Public assistance is an option for some individuals with disabilities who have limited or fixed incomes. Not every individual will qualify for or have the ability to immediately access these funds because there isn’t enough funding to meet the need. For individuals who do qualify, however, this assistance alone is not enough to provide a full safety net of lifetime support or affordable housing. It is imperative that families and individuals consider getting professional advice from a special needs lawyer and/or financial planner to help avoid common mistakes that can result in loss of benefits.
Below, you will find an outline of the various public assistance options. For more financial resources, check out the AHN Resource Directory, and this webinar that provides an overview of financial planning tools.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

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This is a needs-based program for individuals with qualified disabilities or those over age 65 with limited incomes and resources. The maximum monthly federal cash benefits for 2016 are $733 for an individual and $1,100 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. Some states offer an additional [supplemental payment].

Please note that to be eligible for SSI benefits based on disability, an applicant or a current SSI recipient who is single cannot have more than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple). Not all assets count towards the limit, such as one’s primary residence, therefore it is important to understand these restrictions as well as how an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account could help prevent unnecessary postponement of benefits. Visit the SSA Ticket To Work website to find a local benefits counselor who can help you understand your SSA benefits and work incentives.

You can find your Social Security office here.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Child’s Benefits


SSDI is typically paid to individuals who have worked in jobs covered by Social Security and are now retired or have a disability that prevents them from working. However, adult children with a qualifying disability diagnosed before age 22 may be eligible for “child’s benefits” if a parent dies, retires, or begins receiving social security payments. This is considered a “child’s benefit” because it is paid based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record; the adult child need not have worked.

An individual receiving SSDI child’s benefits will be disqualified from this benefit if he or she has substantial earnings, gets married, or… In 2016, “substantial earnings” is considered more than $1,130 per month.

You can apply for SSDI online here.



A federal health insurance program for medical benefits, serving those over 65 years, or who have been receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSI and/or SSDI) for at least two years.


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Medicaid is a federal health insurance program for long-term support services (LTSS) and other services deemed medically necessary. It is the major source of funding for supports and service for those with disabilities and the elderly. Individuals can receive institutional or community-based LTSS. Community-based LTSS are provided through waivers that are designed and implemented by the state. They are not necessarily available to everyone eligible for SSI as some states have more restrictive eligibility criteria for particular waivers. Waiver funding only covers the cost of LTSS, not room and board.

Medicaid is administered on the state level, and, therefore, each state determines the type, amount, duration, and scope of entitled mandatory and/or optional services they will provide. Most states have long waiting lists to access waiver supports unless individuals are in a crisis situation.

You can learn more about your state waivers and eligibility by contacting your state Developmental Disability Agency here.

Housing Choice Vouchers


Housing Choice Vouchers allow people to rent units in privately-owned rental housing for 30% of their total income. Individuals must have very low income to qualify. Vouchers are extremely limited, and the application window can be as brief as one day per year, so individuals should contact their local Public Housing Authority for more information as soon as they can.

Some Public Housing Authorities have designated Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) vouchers that make them easier to access. Use the resources below to see how many NED vouchers are administered in your county.

Project-based Affordable Housing



Some planned communities or apartment buildings have units that are specifically intended to be affordable for those with low or very low income. These can be state-owned properties or privately developed properties. Using, you can search for housing and apply directly, contact your local PHA for public housing options, or call a HUD-approved housing counselor for help.

Assistance Buying Your Own Home or for Modifications

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Whether you are looking for help to buy your first home, modifying your existing residence, or finding affordable housing units, your State Housing Finance Agency (HFA) is another source of help. They vary widely in characteristics such as their relationship to state government and the programs they offer, so it’s important to explore how your HFA may be able to assist you in finding, modifying, or developing affordable housing. Find your state HFA here.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)



To be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, an individual must have less than $3,250 in countable resources or be receiving SSI or SSDI. Benefits may be collected through paper food stamps and sometimes through electronic benefit transfer (EBT). Benefits are calculated based on individual earnings and will vary, but the maximum benefit for an individual is $194 per month.

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