Kansas budget increases protected income level for people with disabilities

First increase in more than 10 years
Kansas budget increases protected income level for people with disabilities
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Gayla Westhoff has been living with disabilities for more than 12 years.

And one of her biggest struggles is money.

Gala Westhoff, Parsons resident: “Things I need, I get help from my family, and I’ve gotten help from my friends before. To just have the basic items you.”

She gets just over a thousand dollars a month in social security, but two hundred and sixty of it goes back to the state because of patient obligations.

Westhoff: “So I live on 747 dollars a month.. and there’s thousands like me.”

No matter how much someone with disabilities that also recieves in home services makes, anything above 747 has to go back to the state.

Whether it’s from social security, retirement, or from working.

Andy Rausch, SKIL Independent Living Coordinator: “If you find a place you can actually afford to live in for that, you still have to pay for food, and utilities and everything else.”

But Rausch is optimistic about a change that will happen later this year, thanks to a line item in the state’s FY 2020 budget.

The state allocated 12-point-four million more dollars in funding for a protected income level increase– so the max that people with disabilities can make is increased to 1,177 dollars a month.

An increase that hasn’t happened for at least ten years.

Rausch: “This is a major victory for disabled people. And frankly, a lot of these victories have been slow coming, and there are a lot more that still need to happen. But, one step at a time, and this is a very important one.”

Westhoff: “It would make a huge difference. I’d be able to do things with my family and with friends, for example, go to a movie. I’m barely able to keep gas in my car, and my car’s 31 years old. Paying for car repairs, that’s another problem. It would change my life in a thousand ways.”

While advocates consider this a victory, they know they still have work to do.

Rausch: “People with disabilities are always at the bottom of the rung. And people forget, you’re this far away from being one of those people. We’ve seen people who fall and hit their head, and they’re disabled for the rest of their life.”

Westhoff: “The legislators need to be told, and told and told because there are thousands upon thousands who are in the same situation that I am.”

The increase also applies to elderly people who take part in an all-inclusive care program.

The change goes into effect on September first of this year.

The change will have to be approved again when the FY 2021 budget is approved.

Senator Richard Hilderbrand, R-Kansas, sent us a statemtent. He also says he voted against passing the budget, but supports this change.

“This is something that I do support as a stand alone issue. This will allow disabled and elderly Kansans the ability to keep more of their income, before it will go to the state.”

Representative Monica Murnan, D-Kansas, also sent us a statement. She says she didn’t personally work on this aspect of the budget, but supports it.

“The changes made to the protected income levels was a really important budget change that came out of this year’s state budget. This change has a significant impact on individuals who receive services so they can stay in their own homes rather than live in a nursing facility or institution. As I listened to individuals who are positively impacted by the change, the answer to the question, “what would this change mean to you?” was most often, “I’d buy groceries.” This is a policy change that was needed for many years, now that we have stable revenues coming into the state, we can make great changes like this that directly impact Kansans’ quality of life.”

The SKIL Resource Center also advocated for the change, going to the capital to advocate in person. If you want to watch testimonials from their clients, follow this link.

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