Funding for Missouri’s blind pension program will no longer be reduced

Funding for Missouri’s blind pension program will no longer be reduced
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Governor Jay Nixon, this week, announced that funding for Missouri’s blind pension program will no longer be reduced.

Previously, pension recipients were told they would see a $33 reduction per month in 2015.

Many blind residents in the Four States utilize the funding to purchase technology that allows them to live a more independent life.

Joplin resident Chip Hailey has received a blind pension since losing his sight in 1979.

He says many blind residents would be hurting next year, had the reduction taken effect.

“Doesn’t sound like a whole lot of money to some people, but over the course of the year, it’s close to over $400,” Hailey said.

Shirley Ritter, president of the Joplin Service Club of the Blind, says many rely heavily on pension funding to get by.

“Groceries, rent, utilities,” Ritter said.

Some also spend it on technology.

“Perhaps you have an opportunity for a job, if you can only operate a computer,” Ritter said. “There are computers that talk to you, read what’s on the screen to you.”

One of the technology pieces Hailey was able to purchase through his pension funding, was a money identifier, which verbally tells the denomination of each bill.

“I’m telling you, that means so much, just to be able to do that independently, so that I don’t have to ask someone for sighted assistance,” Hailey said.

Pension funds have also allowed him to purchase several assistive applications for his iPhone and many other verbal tools.

“Things like talking microwaves, talking bathroom scales, different talking products like that,” Hailey said.

More than 3,800 Missouri residents, like Hailey, receive up to $718 a month through the pension program.

A supplemental budget appropriation will cover the previously planned cutbacks, in order to keep the pension at that amount.

“It’s just a tremendous relief knowing that there will be no reduction whatsoever,” Hailey said. “We’re really, really happy about that.”

Missouri’s blind pension program is funded by a statewide property tax of 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.