1. Challenges and opportunities for Careers in the Arts

Special Needs Trust to protect public benefits while Taking Part

Would a Special Needs (Pooled) Trust be one way to protect public benefits a disabled person gets when they want to participate in a program? This is in answer to the problem with disabled artists losing benefits they rely on if they generate income or have assets over a certain limit.

Money/Income produced from sale of art by an artist might be used to fund the Trust.

I'm imaging this solution as more applicable in context of a disabled Artists' Cooperative, Group Cottage Industry, or other program designed to train artists and provide channels for artists to pursue career objectives in Art and generate some income -----

There's been several ideas and many comments posted about the potential of disabled persons losing their SSI and Medicaid benefits if participating in any activity that generates income, no matter how small that amount is and regardless of occupation. The same problem exists with Disability Benefits where a person can lose it if producing income over a certain (small) amount.

I don't know enough about Trusts, but there are such things as First-party, Third-party, pooled and un-pooled Special Needs Trusts that are designed to protect eligibility and access to these public benefits when an inheritance, personal injury settlement, or other large amount of money intended for a beneficiary will impact their access to these Social Security and CMS programs.

I wonder if in a situation where disabled students and artists, especially if participating in an Artists Cooperative or Group Program, could be paid through a third-party, pooled Special Needs Trust. That Trust being funded by the income generated by the Program, funds disbursed through a Trust to the disabled artist-beneficiary.

These trusts, I think, are managed by a non-profit trustee. The beneficiary (disabled artist) can use funds from the trust to pay expenses for the comfort and happiness for a beneficiary, without having to include funds in the trust in calculating total assets that would make the beneficiary ineligible for SSI, Medicaid, SNAP, etc.

Here's a short list of things that the funds from a Special Needs Trust can be used to purchase:

Purchase of a home or condo along with any necessary improvements and maintenance.

Property tax and homeowners insurance.

Purchase of a vehicle and/or vehicle modifications.

Vehicle insurance, normal operating expenses, and necessary maintenance.

Alternative transportation such as cab fare or bus passes.

Travel expenses, such as airfare.

Household goods, personal property, and clothing.

Telephone, cable, and internet services.

Education expenses and computer equipment.

Medical durable equipment, such as wheelchairs, lifts, and other equipment.

Home care services not covered by public benefit programs.

Dental care, physical therapy, massages, support services, and other medical costs not covered or minimally covered by public benefit programs.

Pre-need funeral expenses.

Entertainment expenses, such as magazine subscriptions, books, hobby supplies, tickets to movies, plays, museums, and sporting events.


Anyway - I wanted to offer this as something to investigate for addressing the issue with Disabled Artists possibly losing their benefits by participating in "Careers in Arts for Disabled" program. For those who have no other source of support but their SSA benefits and assistance, it would be a disincentive to participate in a Arts Career program if they have the potential to generate revenue over the low limits placed on them by those programs. There's no way to get started without some safety net. Some sort of managed Trust (funded with revenue from an Artists work within a Cooperative structure?) might be something to consider, at least until an Artist is better established and has benefited from an "Career in the Arts for Disabled" program.


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Idea No. 97