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Moving Forward: Comprehensive Integrated Mental Health Plan, 2006-2011 

Economic Security

“Economic security” means that people are able to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families. Many Trust beneficiaries must rely on public assistance to meet basic needs because they are unable to work or engage in subsistence activities. Unfortunately, public assistance has not kept pace with the cost of living, and poverty is common among Trust beneficiaries and their families. Alaskans living with mental health problems and developmental or cognitive disabilities who are able to work can be helped in this effort by continued Medicaid and assistance with expensive medications needed for the treatment of their illness.

Economic Security Goal #1: Make it possible for Trust beneficiaries most in need to live with dignity, ensuring they have adequate food, housing, medical care, work opportunities, and consistent access to basic resources.

Figure 12 — Monthly SSI/APA Payments: Percent below Alaska Poverty Level by Year

The Social Security Income and Alaska Public Assistance programs provide a small amount of cash each month to assist elderly, blind, or disabled Alaskans. While the SSI payment is adjusted every year for inflation, the APA payment has not been keeping up with inflation because it is legally capped.

Figure 12 shows that the SSI/APA payment has eroded over the years in relation to the level of income that is defined each year as the Alaska poverty level. The monthly level of income defined as “poverty” in 2010 was $1128, but the monthly SSI/APA payment was $972.39 The federal poverty guidelines remain unchanged from 2009. 39

Figure 13 — Alaska Population 18 and Over by Income Level and Disability Status

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey data from 2010 show that Alaskans ages 18 and over  who experience a disability (i.e., limited in any way in any activities because of physical, mental or emotional problems) have a significantly lower annual income than those not experiencing a disability. Nearly half of the BRFSS respondents who earned less than $15,000 per year experienced a disability.9

Figure 14 — Number of Trust Beneficiaries Receiving Support through Division of Vocational Rehabilitation versus Number Employed

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) assists individuals with a disability to obtain and maintain employment. With the proper services and supports, such as education, on-the-job training, job search, and placement services, people with disabilities can be employed. Of the total clients served by DVR in 2009, 72 percent were Trust beneficiaries.45

Figure 14 shows that the number of Trust beneficiaries served by DVR has increased and the number of non-beneficiaries served has decreased during recent years. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of Trust beneficiaries served by DVR who became employed grew approximately 18 percent.45

Figure ES-1: IDD Waiver Recipients who Receive Supported Employment Services, by Year,

Figure ES-1 shows that the number of  Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) waiver recipients receiving supported employment has ranged from a low of 277 in fiscal year 2001 to a high of 363 in fiscal year 2008.

“Supported employment” is paid employment for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities for whom competitive employment at or above the minimum wage is unlikely, and who, because of their disabilities, need intensive ongoing support, including supervision and training, to perform in a work setting. Medicaid covers the costs of supported employment, allowing participants to contribute to the community and to their own sense of self-esteem through work.46

Figure ES-2 - Average Number of Participants in the Medicaid Buy-in Option, by Year,

The Working Disabled Medicaid Buy-in is a category of Medicaid intended to encourage an individual with a disability to work (if they are able) by giving or extending their access to health coverage. Alaska was the first state to pass legislation that provides for this program and participation has doubled since 2001. To participate in the buy-in program, family income cannot exceed 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines for Alaska, and the individual’s monthly unearned income must be less than $1252 ($1854, if married) and countable assets of less than $10,000 ($15,000, if married).39

Figure ES-3:Average Annual Unemployment Rate, Alaska and U.S. by Year,

The unemployment rate for both Alaska and the U.S. increased between 2008 and 2009. In this data, persons are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work. Persons who were not working and were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been temporarily laid off are also included as unemployed. The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force.47

Affordability of Housing
Many Alaskan families cannot afford adequate housing. The Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment in Alaska is $1,045. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn $3,484 monthly or $41,813 annually. (A unit is considered affordable if it costs no more than 30% of the renter's income.) Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $20.10

In Alaska, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $7.75. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 104 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, a household must include 2.6 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.

Monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for an individual are $674 in Alaska. If SSI represents an individual's sole source of income, affordable rent (30% of $674) is $202. However, the Fair Market value for a one-bedroom rental is $833.

Table E-1 - Alaska Rent-Wage Disparity by Census Area,

Table E-1shows how much money a person in each Alaska census area would need to earn in order for them to be spending only the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing (a typical two-bedroom rental). For instance, a person renting a two-bedroom apartment in Anchorage would need to earn $19.83 per hour working regular fulltime hours.34

For more information about homelessness, please see the Living with Dignity sectiodrn of this plan.

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