The ABLE National Resource Center (ABLE NRC) is pleased to announce the launch of our 2021 ABLE NRC BIPOC Ambassador program and the opportunity for four more BIPOC ABLE account owners to join our initiative. We will be working to increase awareness and engagement around ABLE accounts among minority populations who experience higher rates of poverty at the intersection of race and disability. With the help of our BIPOC Ambassadors who are ABLE account owners and family members within BIPOC communities, we feel confident that 2021 will be the year that more BIPOC individuals and families will experience the benefit of tax-advantaged ABLE savings accounts.
Here is what some of our BIPOC Ambassadors say about the work we will be doing together:
Davinna Christian’s son Dushon has Sickle Cell Disease and is an ABLE account owner. She shares that, “I am working on BIPOC outreach for ABLE NRC because it is important for families to have options regarding saving money for disabled individuals and not have to worry about interfering with disability income (SSI, SSDI) as well as being able to use saved funds for items that are needed and not covered by insurance. It is also important for minorities to know that ABLE accounts exist and they do not have as many rules attached to them as trusts might have and, most importantly, ABLE funds can be used immediately if needed. I will be working to make families with Sickle Cell Disease more aware and engaged with ABLE accounts because this is an underrepresented group for many things in the disability world. There are 100,000 people living with Sickle Cell Disease in America and this is a group that is big in numbers, but small in resources.”
ABLE account owner and mixed-media artist, Sarah Perez, shares that, “As a BIPOC person, I know there can be barriers to many things. And being disabled only adds to those struggles. While working to spread awareness of ABLE accounts in organizations that service BIPOC communities in the Greater Cleveland Area, I hope to let people know that ABLE is a wonderful tool for saving money for disabled BIPOC; it is an easier barrier to break through.”
Edward Mitchell, an ABLE account owner who used his ABLE funds to pay for an accessible van that he will be getting later this month, shares that, “I’m working on BIPOC outreach for ABLE NRC because, when I was initiated into the first black fraternity in the U.S. – Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. by way of the Beta PI chapter at Lane College (one of the oldest historically black colleges) in 2009, it is a lifelong brotherhood for leaders. The mission statement of the fraternity reads: ’To develop leaders, promote brotherhood and academic excellence, while providing service and advocacy for our communities.’ In order for me to make good on that mission, I have to find ways to implement it and give back to others. Joining ABLE NRC’s BIPOC Ambassadors I believe exhibits what it means to be a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity Inc. Additionally, I will push the ABLE BIPOC initiative with the Tennessee Statewide Independent Living Council. I am currently on my last year under my first governor appointment to the Council and will be able to leverage those resources of the executive council, as well as the six Centers for Independent Living throughout the state of Tennessee.”
Disability Rights Advocate, Hector Ramirez, purchased a home in 2019 with ABLE account savings after battling homelessness for decades. He shares that, “I’m working on BIPOC outreach because these past couple of years, in order to survive, my BIPOC community and I have had to move from a stance of resistance to one of solidarity. ABLE accounts for me, as a person with a disability, has meant equity. But, equity is also about accountability. The truth is that COVID-19 has had the worst health and economic outcomes on disabled peopled and BIPOC communities. That is why I am doing outreach to the BIPOC community to help give people not just one more way to survive, but a way to move forward and lean into each other during this pandemic, in unity.”
Cheryl Walfall-Flagg works with Head Start and Re-Thinking Guardianship, and her young adult son Sean is an ABLE account owner. She shares that, “Since I learned about ABLE accounts five years ago, I have been telling people about this financial support tool because I want to help folks build that sense of security for themselves or loved ones. Current concerns related to the pandemic, and political and social justice issues, makes it seem irrelevant to discuss saving money. However, these issues are connected and it is important to highlight the real benefits of an ABLE account for all persons with a disability, and even more so in communities that do not normally save money, or get information on financial literacy or know how to build generational financial independence.”
Timothy Elliot is a disabled veteran who works with the Office of Home and Community Living with New York’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Program. He mentors individuals with disabilities and teaches them how to advocate for themselves. One year into his naval career he became paralyzed from the shoulders down. Along with physical and mental struggles of living with a disability, he found financial instability another obstacle. He works with people with developmental disabilities and disabled veterans to help them become more aware and engaged with ABLE accounts. He shared that “many of them are being stifled by fear of being penalized for improving their financial situation or lack of trust of programs that aren’t the traditional services or programs that are available.”
Now that you have heard from our first six ABLE NRC BIPOC Ambassadors, stay tuned for the work we will be doing together and consider applying to join our team.
BIPOC Ambassador Application
If you are an ABLE account owner or have a family member with an ABLE account and you are a leader in your BIPOC community, we invite you to apply to become a member of the ABLE NRC BIPOC Ambassador program.
The BIPOC workgroup meets monthly to brainstorm and collaborate outreach strategies for ABLE NRC and to work on as a group. Individual members work with ABLE NRC leadership to identify opportunities and activities for outreach utilizing their networks. ABLE NRC will provide a $500 stipend into the ABLE accounts of BIPOC Ambassadors or their family members upon completion of our 2021 work.
The application is due by 6:00 p.m. E.T. on Friday, February 28.