Removing Income and Asset Limits for Workers with Disabilities: Act 69
Act 69, signed by Governor Wolf on July 1, 2021, will change the lives of workers with disabilities in Pennsylvania. This bill creates a new category for individuals who receive Medical Assistance For Workers With Disabilities (MAWD). Prior to the passage of this bill, Pennsylvanians could only receive Medicaid and waiver services if they were earning up to 250% of the federal poverty limit (minus standard Medicaid deductions) and have up to $10,000 in assets if they were enrolled in MAWD. Now, when individuals reach that income limit, they can be enrolled in this new category called “Workers with Job Success.”
A person in this new category will be able to earn up to 600% of the federal poverty level (minus typical Medicaid deductions) and unlimited cash assets that they have earned through their jobs. Individuals in this category will pay 7.5% of their income as the insurance premium but it will allow them to keep their Medicaid and home and community-based service waivers.
The path to success
The bill was written by the #IWantToWork campaign in 2018 and 2019 as a response to the passage of Workforce Opportunities for High School Students Act (Act 26) and Employment First Pennsylvania (Act 36), two bills that were also supported by the campaign. Acts 26 and 36 open doors to employment at the business and state-level but they did not address the ability for individuals to actually take the employment opportunities.
Income and asset limits from Medicaid and home and community-based services limit workers with disabilities’ ability to achieve their full potential in employment. For some individuals, they had to refuse promotions and raises while for others, the fear of potentially hitting these income and asset caps swayed them to not pursue employment in the first place. To address these limits, a bill had to be passed which provided a way for people to have job success without losing life-sustaining care.
The creations of a wide-reaching bill that has the potential of impacting so many lives required significant support. A team was established through United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania consisting of community leaders, self-advocates, lobbyists, policy writers, and business allies to develop and rally support for this legislation. Act 69 also required tremendous assistance from state legislators and the Department of Human Services. PA Senator Bob Mensch and PA Representative Kate Klunk respectively introduced the legislation in 2019. Having family members with significant disabilities encouraged these legislators to work tirelessly to get the bill passed and signed.
Beyond the immediate and anticipated goals of the bill – allowing workers with disabilities to earn more and save more – people in this program will enjoy the freedom to choose when they get married, pursue better jobs, and strengthen their financial safety nets. Historically, individuals with disabilities have been repeatedly warned that working, earning money, and saving money could jeopardize their benefits. With this change, we hope that the underlying concern will be eliminated, allowing more individuals to feel comfortable in pursuing employment and a lifetime of success.
Making Pennsylvania an Employment First State: Act 36
Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1641, codifying the Employment First policy that the governor established by executive order in March 2016 (PA Act 36 of 2018) to increase competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Learn more here.
Workforce Opportunities for High School Students: Act 26
Governor Tom Wolf signed an important milestone for young people with disabilities when he made House Bill 400 a law (PA Act 26 of 2016) in Pennsylvania. The new law ensures young people with disabilities have access to part-time and summer jobs while in high school, preparing them for work as adults. Learn more here.