Many families affected by muscle-wasting diseases are trapped in the funding gap – struggling to make ends meet and struggling to pay for assistive technology (AT), including home modifications.
The funding maze is full of twists, turns and possibly some dead ends. Here are some local, state and national resources that may help fill the funding gap, or at least point you in the right direction.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers information about various programs for low-income families and people with disabilities.
In addition, some states offer special no- or low-interest loan programs (with certain income-eligibility guidelines) to help homeownwers finance modifications and repairs. The programs vary by state, so it’s best to search your local phone book listings or the Internet for the following:
State Department of Housing
State Housing Finance Agency
State Housing Development Authority
State Department of Rehabilitation
State Office of Health and Human Services
State Treasurer’s Office
Loan applications for these kinds of programs typically require a description of disability, description of the assistive equipment or home modifications, and a price quote. Some also may require a physician’s letter or certification verifying that the person will benefit from the equipment or modifications.
Credit history is part of the equation, and loan amounts and repayment terms are based upon the total amount, as well as a person’s ability to repay.
In addition, homeowners generally are responsible for getting bids, hiring a contractor, and ensuring that improvements meet local and state building code requirements.
Basic home modifications covered by these state loan programs may include: bathroom and kitchen modifications; installation of grab bars and handrails; ramps and lifts; widening of doorways; accessible flooring; and other modifications that improve accessibility.
Operated by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, the Home Modification Loan Program provides low-interest loans to make access modifications to the primary, permanent residence of the elderly, people with disabilities, and families with children with disabilities. Loans can range from $1,000 to $30,000, and carry little or no interest.
The Ohio State Treasurer’s Office offers the Access for Individuals program, which grants low-interest loans to residents with disabilities for the purchase of assistive equipment, including home modifications. Approved loans for up to $10,000 can be repaid in one to five years (unsecured loans), while loans for more than $10,000 can have a repayment term ranging from six to 20 years (loans must be secured).
Pennsylvania’s Housing Finance Agency offers the Access Home Modifications Program, featuring interest-free mortgage loans up to $10,000 for home modifications. With no monthly payment, the loan becomes due and payable upon payoff of the first mortgage, or when the home is sold, transferred, refinanced or non-owner occupancy of the property.
Centers for Independent Living (CILs) provide valuable information about local funding sources. Independent living specialists and counselors work with people to determine their eligibility for various programs. Call (713) 520-0232, or visit the Independent Living Research Utilization for a directory of CILs and Statewide Independent Living Councils.
Similar to the VR agencies, state developmental disabilities agencies also can offer assistance with home modifications to established clients, even those who do not have cognitive disabilities. To find out more, visit the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, where you can find a link to the State Councils on Developmental Disabilities. Or, call (202) 690-6590. Programs vary by state.
Home and Community Based Services, (HCBS) waivers can be used by Medicaid recipients to fund big-ticket AT items — like home modifications — that wouldn’t be covered by the traditional Medicaid program. Medicaid differs from state to state, and the same goes for the waivers. To learn more, visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and select your state.
Alternative Financing Programs (AFP) – available in 33 states and U.S. territories – offer low-interest loans to people with disabilities, their parents, relatives or advocates in order to purchase AT or services. If you don’t qualify for a traditional bank loan, AFPs may be more receptive to your application because they evaluate poor credit history in relation to the amount of disability-related expenses. They also may accommodate requests for longer repayment terms on larger loans. Visit the AFP Web site, or call (703) 524-6686 for more information.
Department of Veterans Affairs, (800-827-1000), offers the Specially Adapted Housing Grant Program to veterans or service members who have service-connected disabilities for the purpose of constructing an adapted home or modifying an existing home. Visit the VA’s home loan program to learn more.
City community services departments often operate programs to assist low-income homeowners with repairs and modifications. Many programs are geared toward the elderly, but they also may apply to people with disabilities.
For an extensive look at these and other AT funding sources that can help lessen the financial burden of paying for home modifications and equipment, check out Quest articles Playing the Money Game and Funding Freedom. To find additional resources about accessible housing and home modifications, browse Quest’s “InfoQuest – Accessible Housing.”