Outcomes of Special Session To Date

Special Session is not yet over and even those items that have made it through the Legislature must now wait on the Governor to make a decision.

Thus far the developmental disabilities community could stand to gain a great deal of ground on the waitlist issue. The House and the Senate will send language to Governor Scott to approve $40 million to add individuals to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities Home and Community Based Waiver. Thank you to the legislature for recognizing this pressing need in Florida.

The desperate need for a rate increase in order to pay front line staff and others at minimum wage and higher has not yet been addressed. Waiver Support Coordinators have a rate increase in both the House and Senate and their rate increase will now be up to Governor Scott. However, those individuals in direct day to day service to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities still have rates paid to them beginning at $6.72 per hour and at that rate of pay they also have to use their own vehicles and purchase their own fuel. The service system is flirting with disaster next year as several large corporations will raise their starting wages to $10.00 per hour and for that wage, nobody’s life will be in their hands. We are hoping that we can avoid this crisis with action from our legislators.

Housing funds for the intellectual and developmental disabilities, I/DD, community has a positive outlook. Another $10 million is in the budget for housing development for I/DD. There is also a continued requirement for a set aside for SAIL developments as well as a requirement that local SHIP funds have I/DD as a priority for funding.

The legislature is once again sending Governor Scott a $2 million request to continue The Arc of Florida dental funds. These funds will provide about 6 months of dental services if they are approved by the Governor. The Arc dental program has approximately 600 individuals waiting for dental services. Thank you to the legislature for recognizing the need and acting to end the pain and suffering of many individuals.

We are still hopeful that the legislature will recognize the importance of the Adults with Disabilities funding in the Vocational Rehabilitation budget. So far only the House has continued funding for this program that serves many waitlist families and for some is the only support service they receive. We continue to try to restore funding for this program.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) Act of 2014

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The Achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) Act of 2014 authorizes each state to establish a Qualified ABLE Program to offer savings and investment options to individuals with a disability and their families for disability-related expenditures. Earnings in these accounts will be tax-free under Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code as long as the funds are used to pay for qualified disability expenditures such as education, health, financial management services, housing, and transportation of a Beneficiary. An ABLE account is intended to supplement, but not replace, the benefits provided through private insurances, Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Beneficiary’s employment, and other sources.

The Florida Prepaid College Fund encourages you to provide your guidance and input for the creation of the Florida ABLE Program. To do so, please complete a short survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TD77D25.

The last day to complete this survey is May 31, 2015.

Input received from the survey above will assist in the development of a Qualified ABLE Program in Florida and will specifically guide the investment options that will be offered. For additional information about the Florida ABLE program, please visit http://www.myablesavings.com.