IDAs and Other Programs

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal

If you are getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medi-Cal and plan to enroll in an IDA, it is very important that you find out who funds that IDA program.

If you are on SSI or Medi-Cal, it is highly recommended that you enroll in a federally funded IDA rather than an IDA funded by some other source. If you choose an IDA program that is federally funded, your SSI and Medi-Cal will not be affected by the assets you save in your IDA account. However, if the IDA program you choose is not federally funded, you may become ineligible for your SSI or Medi-Cal benefits because your IDA account could cause you to go over their assets limits.

The 2 federal programs that fund IDAs are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Assets for Independence Act (AFIA). However, you do not need to be enrolled in those programs to have an IDA funded by them.

Documenting your federally funded IDA for SSI and ALTCS

When you enroll in a TANF- or AFIA-funded IDA, be sure to ask your IDA caseworker to write a letter on their program letterhead stating that you are participating in an IDA program that is federally funded. The letter should specifically mention the “Exclusions under Other Federal Statutes” clause. Give a copy of that letter to the Social Security Administration (SSA) or Medi-Cal for documentation and keep a copy of it for yourself.

Plans to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

A Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) is an SSI program that allows you to save up money for a specified and SSA-approved work goal, such as starting a new business or getting a different job that will ultimately help you to lower or stop the cash benefits you get from SSI, Social Security, or both. The money you save in a PASS does not count against SSI's income and asset limits. If SSA approves your PASS, they will not count the money you spend on your PASS goal (such as business equipment or education expenses) when they figure out if you qualify for SSI. If you are already eligible for SSI, you will get higher SSI cash benefits, which will replace all of the money you spend on your PASS.

This means you can save money towards a career goal in a PASS and continue to use SSI benefits for basics like food and rent.

An IDA can be a part of your PASS plan; the only requirement is that your goal be the same for each program. One of the benefits of using both programs together is that it allows you to set up a nonfederally funded IDA without threatening your SSI or Medi-Cal benefits. As long as the money you save in your IDA is part of a PASS plan, it will not be counted by SSI or Medi-Cal and you won’t lose those benefits.

IDAs and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

If you get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you can enroll in any IDA program that you choose. There are no restrictions.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax program that reduces the amount of income tax owed by low- to moderate-income workers and families. If you get the EITC, you can deposit that money into your IDA and your money will get matched, helping you reach your goal more quickly.

Another Way to Save: An ABLE Account

If your disability began before you turned 26, you can open an ABLE account where over time you can save up to $100,000 in resources and not have them counted by SSI and most other programs with resource limits. The money in an ABLE account gets tax advantages similar to the way retirement accounts work, but can only be spent on approved disability expenses, such as education, housing, or transportation. To learn more about ABLE accounts, read DB101's article on Building Your Assets and Wealth.