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Disability Inclusive Grantmaking is the mission of DFN: inclusion of disability in grantmaking programs and inclusion of people with disabilities in grantmaking organizations.

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Opportunities to Shape Innovation Through Public-Private Partnerships

A large number of foundations focus their energies on addressing poverty, education, unemployment and healthcare by funding nonprofits that reach out to the most disenfranchised and poorest in members of our society. However, it is not widely known that people with disabilities are, in fact, the poorest, least educated and least employed minority group in our country. If the needs and issues of people with disabilities are not factored into analyses of these issues and programs that address them, funding decisions may not be as comprehensive or effective as they could be.

Consider these facts:

  • One million unemployed Californians with disabilities are receiving Federal monthly cash benefits valued at nearly $9 billion annually.
  • Most of them are abjectly poor. The rest are near-poor.
  • Nearly all are enrolled in publicly financed health care programs (Medi-Cal and Medicare).
  • Many disabled Californians who do not have public insurance because they do not meet the SSA poverty guidelines need the level of care that only Medi-Cal can provide.
  • Many of these individuals face significant barriers to employment.

The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 has the potential to remove many of these barriers.

The Opportunity

The Work Incentives Act offers communities significant opportunities to eliminate barriers to employment for Californians with disabilities who want to work by providing continued health care security and expanding employment-related services. California can now allow people with severe disabilities to work while retaining Medi-Cal. Furthermore, the Act creates a potential cash flow to support employment-related services that Californians with disabilities want and need.

Foundations Can Make a Difference

The Work Incentives Act is also an invitation to innovation for both large and small foundations. Because of the inherent limitations of Federal funding and allowable activities under the Act, private funding is essential for fulfilling its full potential. Foundations can fund approaches that create and test solutions to long-standing problems. For example, community foundations and other funders that address a broad range of issues in local communities can convene stakeholders and address community barriers. Corporate foundation can fund employment programs and add technical expertise specific to their industries. Foundations with targeted program areas in health, employment, poverty alleviation/asset creation, and economic development can make sure disability issues are fully addressed in their current funding strategies as well as directly funding projects that are aligned with the goals of the Act.

All types and sizes of foundations can make a difference by funding programs that tackle these long-standing dilemmas that form the context of the Work Incentives Act:

  • Healthcare: What can be done to provide the kind of health-care people with disabilities need to go to work? How can California advance this agenda? How will citizens know about new opportunities? Who will be the experts?
  • Employment: what kind of services would actually help citizens with disabilities get back to work? What are the best practices in this area? Are current service programs ready to embrace new strategies? What is needed to get them there?
  • Poverty: Can people with disabilities work their way out of poverty? Can poverty be avoided through the combination of work, publicly subsidized healthcare and cash benefits? How do current benefits and employment fit together? Who can assist them with asset creation and management?
  • Community Building: Who are the real players in the environment ushered in by the Work Incentives Act? Do they know and trust each other? Have they mutually agreed on their roles? Can good models developed in other arenas be applied here and with what kind of success?

Now Is the Time …

… to demonstrate that public/private partnerships and privately funded projects supporting the goals of the Work Incentives Act can effect real change in the systems of health and work supports for people with disabilities in California and other states. Here is just a sample of the type of programs foundations can fund:


  • Health Insurance Product Development responsive to the new legislation and taking into account the healthcare needs of working individuals with severe disabilities.
  • Employer-offered healthcare models that wrap around Medi-Cal coverage.
  • A clearinghouse of healthcare products for Californians with disabilities.
  • Advocacy Training for consumers
  • Partnerships between health research and provider organizations and organizations with disability expertise


  • Loan funds for individuals transitioning to and from the legislation’s Ticket to Work program, which provides Social Security beneficiaries with a “ticket” they can exchange for employment-related services from any provider authorized by SSA to be an Employment Network.
  • Small cooperatives made up of Ticket holders who need extensive financial and benefits planning and management.
  • Seed funding for disability organizations to develop the capacity to become SSA-authorized Employment Networks.

Health and Work

  • Targeted outreach to employers, health organizations, employment service agencies and other stakeholders.
  • Train health and employment agency personnel in non-disability organizations about disability.
  • Build capacity of organizations that provide employment and health services to economically disadvantaged individuals to integrate people with disabilities.

Poverty Alleviation/Asset Creation

  • Specialty product lines that assist people with disabilities in effectively managing both earned income and benefits income.
  • Low income credit unions to expand access to credit, financial services and asset accumulation for ticket holders.
  • Convene Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and bankers who have community reinvestment funds to inform them of investment opportunities aligned with the Act.
  • Facilitate partnerships between CDFIs and disability funding organizations.

Community Building

  • Consumer education and outreach
  • Curricula training for “benefits planners” who help consumers navigate complicated healthcare and employment systems.
  • Statewide and/or countywide public relations campaigns to inform the general public.
Recognizing Opportunities
Effectiveness in Reaching Goals
Systems Change and Innovation:
Creating New Approaches
Healthcare Access Create media/outreach campaign to alert disabled Californians and community service providers to new healthcare provisions. The California Work Group’s county-based model workshop to train stakeholders in Ticket-to-Work implementation strategies. (Alliance Healthcare and the California Work Group are discussing a Ticket-to-Work implementation workshop to be held in San Diego)
  • Data collection and research on numbers and characteristics of people potentially covered by the potential Medi-Cal buy in and related cost-benefit analyses.
  • Developing countywide approach to expand access to Medi-Cal to cover uninsured low-income workers and their dependents.
  • Developing connections to use public insurance (Medi-Cal and Medicare) in combination with employer-based insurance to create wraparound insurance packages.
Employment Create information-exchange clearinghouse for foundations and nonprofits with the potential of funding startup employment networks. Create statewide benefits planning, outreach and assistance to people with disabilities who want to work. Create small co-operatives made up of Ticket-to-Work holders who need employment services that don’t exist, are too costly or are in short supply.
Asset Creation Establish connections between disability organizations and nonprofits that traditionally receive foundation funding focused on employment and community development to prepare the way for foundation-funded projects.
  • Create small cooperatives made up of Ticket-to-Work holders who need extensive financial and benefits planning and management.
  • Establish low-income credit unions to expand access to credit, financial services and asset accumulation for Ticket-to-Work holders.
  • Set up specialty product lines that assist people with disabilities in effectively managing both earned income and benefits income.