March 22nd, 2011 | by Aleksandra Gajdeczka of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute

Imagine a disability that renders you unable to work, ever again. Now imagine you have no income, no savings, and no employer-sponsored insurance. You apply for federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI), only to find that the application process is long and complex. Chances are, you will have wait for a year or two, if not longer, before your first federal disability check comes. And in the meantime, how do you get by?

The short video below, created by DCFPI and So Others Might Eat, features three District residents who were in these shoes not long ago.

In the District, as in 37 states, you may qualify for temporary aid. DC’s Interim Disability Assistance is a temporary cash assistance program that provides $270 per month to individuals with disabilities who have applied for SSI and are awaiting a decision. If the SSI application is approved, the federal government reimburses the District for assistance paid during the application period.

Not only does IDA help reduce reliance on costly emergency services like homeless shelters and hospital visits, but it facilitates access to pro bono legal representation during the SSI process – all with no administrative costs.

Despite this, the IDA budget has been cut dramatically over the past several years, from $5.6 million in local money in FY2008 to just $1.54 million in FY2011. The caseload has decreased from a peak of 2,900 individuals being served each month to a cap of 1,500 today, and a four-month waiting list for this interim assistance program. This erosion of local investment has created a budget hole, and the District will have to invest $3.24 million in FY2012 just to maintain the current caseload and waiting list. But unless the Mayor takes action to protect and restore IDA, further reductions are likely to the number of DC residents with disabilities getting help.

For a look at who benefits from IDA and how, check out this short video by DCFPI and So Others Might Eat.