Meet Jane and Sally

Artwork: Robin Mead

Jane is low-income and disabled. She is unable to care for herself and has no family to help her. Many people in Jane’s situation wind up in state nursing homes or institutions.

Luckily, Jane found a better way. By learning about different services available, Jane is able to live in her own apartment, have the care she needs, and afford to cover all her expenses.

This works out great for Jane, and it also works out great for the state, because it is cheaper for the state to support Jane to stay in her own home then it would be to pay for a Medicaid nursing home.

Life with Jane and Sally

Jane and Sally were friends from many years ago. After Jane became disabled, Sally would often volunteer time to help Jane with things like: bathing, dressing, taking medications, getting in and out of her wheelchair, shopping, laundry and help around the house.

Then, Jane decided to apply for a Disability Home Aide Program. After she got approved, she was told she could pick her own aide. She asked Sally if she would be willing to be her paid home aide. Sally said yes.

Next, Jane decided to apply for assisted housing. At first, she was told it would take five years or more. Then she learned about the many different places to apply for Section 8. She applied several places and got approved in less than a year. Jane asked Sally to live with her. Once again, Jane said yes.

What’s the Rent?

Jane is approved by Section 8 for a two-bedroom apartment to accommodate her live-in aide. Here is the rent:

  • Jane’s Income – $10,000 year (disability check)
  • Sally’s Income – $12,000 (excluded because she is a live in aide)
  • Total countable household income – $10,000
  • Minus standard disability deduction = $9,600
  • Minus approved medical expenses = $8,100
  • Adjusted income = $8,100 per year or $675 per month
  • Times 30% = $203 per month
  • Utilities are offset by a utility allowance = $120
  • Total Monthly rent = $83 plus utilities

Jane and Sally’s Home Aide Program

Jane was approved to hire a home aide 100 hours per month. The number of hours was based on how much care she needed. Some people get 20 hours and some people get 200. Jane was allowed to pick her own aide because she requested to be in a self-directed care program, instead of getting an aide through an agency.

In Jane’s state, the income limit for home aides is $2,250 per month, so even people who normally do not qualify for Medicaid sometimes qualify. Spouse’s income does not count.

Jane and Sally’s Housing

Jane first was told that all Section 8 buildings were terrible, but it turned out not to be true. They discovered that some affordable housing buildings are nice. Jane and Sally looked into 30 different buildings. They figured out which were the nicest, the cheapest, had the right number of bedrooms, and had the shortest waiting lists. They applied 10 places.

The first year they took whatever apartment opened first. A year later, they transferred downstairs to an apartment which was wheelchair accessible. A year after that they came up on the wait list for a nicer building in a better location. They took it!

Jane requested an accommodation to have a live-in aide so that Sally could live with her. This means her apartment was for two bedrooms instead of one.

Sally is paid by the state to care for Jane. However, even if she were not paid, she would still be able to be her live-in aide for housing. Section 8 does not require that aides be paid.

This Sounds Like a Lot of Work!

It took Jane a long time to apply for everything and get approved and get her life to a more stable place. It did not happen overnight.

For example, it took Jane 3 years to get approved for disability, 1 year to get the wheelchair she needed, 6 months to get into a paratransit program, 9 months to get Section 8 housing (plus 2 years before she moved into a place that met her needs), 6 months to  apply for home aides, and another 1 year to get the number of hours she needed. That’s not even counting food stamps, Medicaid and all the other things Jane needs to survive!

Jane was not well enough to do everything at the same time, so the whole process took her many years. All of this takes a lot of energy. Jane is often too sick to sit up and talk on the phone or read things. Sally helps Jane with reading mail, filling out forms, making phone calls, making copies, tracking deadlines, mailing things, and scheduling appointments.

The only thing that was fast and easy was discounted internet. That took ten minutes!

Jane’s Expenses

Jane’s income is $833 per month. Her rent is $83 per month. Her utility bills are manageable because she receives LiHeap utility assistance. Liheap rules vary by state. Liheap does not count income from live-in aides.

Jane also gets discounted power bills from her power company and she qualifies for discounted internet. She applies for food stamps, following special food stamps regulations for people with disabilities. She gets a cell phone through a lifeline program.  Her minutes are limited, so she also makes free calls using Google voice on her laptop.

Jane does not have a car. She gets medical transport to her doctor’s appointments through Medicaid, plus non-medical transportation two trips per month. If she needs additional trips, she uses a paratransit program that will take her to other places in her city. Medicaid transportation is free, and paratransit is $3 each way.

Jane also has some medical expenses, including some treatments not covered by Medicaid, supplements and vitamins recommended by her doctor, care for her assistance animal, and occasional travel out of town to see a specialist for her condition. Jane pays for these out of pocket, however, she also declares medical expenses to help offset the costs.

Sally’s Expenses

Sally’s income is paid by the home aide program. In her state, the salary is $10 per hour and Jane is approved for 100 hours per month. During her other time, Sally is allowed to do other things or get another part time job, if she wants to and if Jane agrees. Jane and Sally talked it over and figured out their own arrangement about how often Sally needs to be home so that Jane’s care needs are met. Sally does not pay rent or utilities because she is a live in aide. Sally is also eligible for a difficulty of care income tax exclusion, so her income is not taxed.

Sally also does not have a car. She rides for free when she accompanies Jane on paratransit to go to the doctor or store. At other times, she uses public transportation.

As a disability aide, Sally does not receive any job benefits. She does not get any paid sick or vacation days. However, she lives in a state that expanded Medicaid (lucky Sally!) so she is able to apply for health insurance.

Sally is approved by the Housing Authority to live in the apartment with Jane, but she is not considered a tenant. She is listed as an aide only, so if Jane changes her mind at some point, Sally will have to move out and Jane can chose someone else to be her aide. If Jane dies, Sally will not be able to keep the Section 8.

Good Job, Jane and Sally!

It took Jane and Sally years to put everything in place, but for now, Jane is able to live in her own home, stay out of a nursing home, and get her care needs met.

Jane dreams of the day when disabled people will not have to spend their lives buried under a mountain of paperwork just to stay alive, but since that day does not appear to be today, things have worked out reasonably well.


Thanks for Reading

🌸 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌸 Lilac has a similar arrangement with her caregiver. She went from a really bad housing situation to a really great one. Here’s how she did itLilac Seriously Upgrades

🌸 To get updates on helpful disability services, and low income programs, follow us on Facebook: The Sleepy Girl Guide.

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10 thoughts on “Meet Jane and Sally”

  1. I live with my boyfriend who drives me everywhere and helps carry groceries, helps me on days I’m sick etc. Can he also be considered a live in aide if I get a voucher?


    1. Please see the link above to find out what the HUD regulations are for who can be a live-in aid. If he meets all of the criteria, he would be eligible to apply to be your aide.


  2. I am a male. 77 year-old, disabled American Veteran. I have a two-bedroom Section 8 Voucher. One room for me and the other room for medical equipment. I need an additional bedroom because I need a live-in-aide. Can the additional bedroom be approved before I have selected the live-in aide ?


    1. Hello,

      Sorry, I am not sure the answer to this. You might try contacting HUD national fair housing offices to see if you can get more information.

      I may be wrong, but I believe you have the right to switch aides at any time, so if you have a friend who might potentially be interested, you can add them to your voucher request and get things moving forward. Later if it does not work out, you can switch to a more permanent aide.

      From what I have seen, it is rare for one person to request three bedrooms. I’ve only heard of one person who asked for this and it wound up being a protracted battle involving the courts (she won).


    1. I am on section 8 and i have a co applicant who is also on my section 8 vocher My mom has become disabled and is currently on section8 waiting list .Due to her being bed ridden and blind she needed someone to care for her so she moved in with me and i get payed to threw inhome care to be her provider my income is tax exempt but housing had raised my rent because my income and said if i wanted to be live in status then id have to lose my section 8 and be on my moms section 8?


      1. Unfortunately that is correct. You can be an aide on HER voucher, not on your voucher.

        If your mom has developmental disabilities, there may be a special exception.


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