Senator Collins invited Eric Meyer, President and CEO of Spurwink in Portland, to testify
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Washington, D.C. -People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are living longer with medical and public health advancements. However, there is a lack of understanding and services to support seniors with disabilities and their caregivers, who are often aging themselves.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Today, Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, led a hearing that examined the unique challenges of people with IDD as they age. Titled, “Working and Aging with Disabilities: From School to Retirement,” the hearing focused on the transition of disabled older Americans from school to employment and into retirement. In addition, the hearing explored how transportation difficulties can serve as a barrier for people with disabilities. Through vocational training, employment, education, medical, and social support, individuals with disabilities can thrive in adulthood.
“Studies show that employing individuals with disabilities is not simply a social good -- it is also good business,” said Senator Collins. “Individuals with disabilities offer many advantages including a highly motivated workforce, lower rates of absenteeism and employer turnover, greater loyalty, and higher rates of satisfaction and productivity among the entire workforce.
“Eric Meyer, the CEO of Spurwink, provided valuable testimony to the Committee about how his organization provides education, job training, and other skills to promote confidence and independence among children and adults with disabilities,” Senator Collins continued. “By providing these resources, Spurwink’s dedicated staff and volunteers have helped individuals with disabilities reach their goals, stay engaged in their communities, and build a bright future.”
In his testimony to the Aging Committee, Eric Meyer, President and CEO of Spurwink, described the importance of providing individuals with IDD and their families the support they need. Spurwink is one of Maine’s largest providers of behavioral health that serves 8,300 people, and employs 930 people throughout the state. Focusing on Spurwink’s client philosophy he said, “Our person-centered planning model is driven by the client and their family - creating individualized goals, planning with their team where they’ll live, the type of work to pursue - all informing the supports our team will provide to help them meet their goals. It is not about Spurwink doing something to or for our clients – it is about Spurwink supporting clients to meet these goals.”
The aging population in the United States has the highest rate of disability. Among individuals ages 65-69, there is a 25 percent chance of having a disability, while those over 80 years of age have a 70 percent chance of having a disability. Approximately 6.3 million people in the United States live with an IDD.
During the hearing, Senator Collins announced her co-sponsorship of the ABLE to Work Act, introduced by Aging Committee member Richard Burr (R-NC) and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-PA). The ABLE to Work Act expands on the goals of the ABLE Act, which became law in 2014, by encouraging work and self-sufficiency. The legislation would allow individuals with disabilities and their families to save more money in an ABLE account if the beneficiary works and earns income. Specifically, an ABLE beneficiary who earns income from a job could save up to the Federal Poverty Level, which is currently at $12,060. The bill would also allow ABLE beneficiaries to qualify for the existing Saver's Credit when they contribute savings.
Text of the ABLE to Work Act is available HERE.