Featured image forFinancing Your Assistive Technology: What is an Alternative Financing Program?

Written by Josephine Tramontano, PATF Development Director

At the recent Assistive Technology Financing Meeting 2018 last week, representatives from 18 different Alternative Financing Programs (AFPs) from across the nation met to discuss best practices, marketing strategies, and other ways of making AFPs more widely known. Check out the PATF Facebook page to see some pictures from the conference. AFPs play an important role in the lives of people with disabilities; yet, most people don’t know what we are or what we do.

AFP’s are statewide programs that help people with any disability get the financing they need for assistive technology (AT) that enhances their quality of life. Public funding sources for AT do exist but the AT covered can be limited. For example, if you are interested in purchasing a modified vehicle, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation will pay for the modifications to the van, but not the van itself. You, yourself, must find a way to pay for the chassis, which is the unmodified body of the van. Your state’s AFP (there’s a list of the 42 AFPs across the nation on our Who We Are page) can provide a low-interest loan to help you purchase the chassis. And it’s great to do your homework – while van dealers can offer their own financing, the interest rate they offer is often much higher than the interest rate an AFP loan offers. That can mean thousands of dollars in savings during the years you pay the loan off. (Seriously!)

AFPs are often well-versed in the ins and outs of AT funding resources, so even if you aren’t interested in a loan, it’s often worth a call to your state’s AFP. We can help you navigate the complicated web of financing options for assistive technology and make sure you’ve found funding for your AT that makes the most sense for your situation and saves you the most money.

But, while low-interest loan programs for assistive technology are the foundation of what AFPs do, many AFPs offer other services as well, including financial education. Managing your money while living with a disability can be complicated – public benefits are often critical but can impose asset limits, making it tricky to save money safely. AFPs can give you the financial education tools to help you understand everything from the basics of money mapping (another term for budgeting) and credit to how to navigate your options for safe savings accounts like Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) or ABLE accounts.

If you have no credit or thin credit, a low-interest or interest-free loan through an AFP can help you start building up your credit – a great thing to do especially knowing the importance of credit. Did you know that almost 50% of employers look at your credit scores before offering you a job? And, if you’re trying to rent an apartment, the landlord will probably look at your credit scores, too. AFPs teach you how to order a credit report and take the time to go through it with you. (Hint: We love doing it!)

Don’t be shy about calling your local AFP. It’s easy to get anxious and upset about money matters, but with a little help, you can begin to have a voice in your financial future.