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Programs to help disabled Missourians in the crosshairs

As the Missouri Legislature works to pass a budget, it appears that it and other state officials are looking to reduce costs by cutting programs that benefit disabled residents. The state Senate recently voted to approve ending an income tax credit for elderly and disabled renters in the state at a savings to the state of $57 million. At the same time, the Public Health Commission announced that it would cut a surcharge that funds a phone service subsidiary for those same groups. As state benefits recede, programs like Social Security disability could become more important than ever.

Under current law, disabled residents are eligible for the tax credit whether they own their home or rent. The principle behind the credit is to help senior citizens and disabled residents pay their property taxes -- either directly or through the rent. But some lawmakers want to make renters ineligible for the credit. They say that landlords do not set rents based on their property tax costs. Also, residents of buildings owned by nonprofit organizations are not eligible.

Several disabled people spoke in support of keeping the credit as it is during a Senate committee hearing earlier in March. They said that the money they save goes to necessities like utilities and medical bills. About 104,000 renters in Missouri received the tax credit in 2012.

Another small benefit that disabled Missourians could soon lose or see reduced is a discount on a basic telephone line. As the Kansas City Star reports, people currently pay a surcharge of 12.5 cents on a $50 phone bill to fund the subsidiary, but the Public Service Commission recently announced that the surcharge will be reduced to 8.5 cents starting in July. Though the discount for disabled people is only about $3.50 per month, it could mean the difference between having a phone and not for many residents.

The income tax credit survived a first-round vote in the Senate. It will need to be approved in a second round vote before it can be sent to the House.

Source: BND.com, "Mo. Senate backs plan to end renters' tax break," David A. Lieb, March 27, 2013

· For information about Social Security disability, please visit our Columbia Social Security disability page.

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