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Outcomes of the 2015 Special Session

June 23, 2015

The highlights of the 2015 special session to deal with the State budget are below. There were many advances made...funding for the waitlist, a small provider rate increase and more dollars for housing. All much needed by the I/DD community.


We were disappointed that an overall provider rate increase did not happen which was desperately needed. Arc chapters and other I/DD provider actually provide the housing, food and basic services to improve quality of life for individuals with I/DD. These services have to be recognized to be every bit as important as paper processing and employment. These are the essentials for quality of life.


In addition, the Governor gave consideration to and vetoed many line items. An overall provider rate increase in the future could prevent the multiple requests for special appropriations in the budget.


Some great things that happened include the following:


Home and Community Based Services: $56 million is appropriated to enroll additional people in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiver program and eliminate the waitlist. The waiver offers comprehensive services for persons with developmental disabilities. Total Funding: $994,793,906.


Supported Employment Services: $1 million for supported employment services for persons on the APD waiver waitlist. These funds will assist individuals who cannot be enrolled in the comprehensive program by offering targeted services to assist with employment.


A total of $5 million was appropriated for providers of Personal Supports under the Developmental Disabilities I-budget waiver to receive provider rate increases.


The State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program: $48 million is provided for the SAIL Program. Each SAIL development must include between 5% and 10% of its units designed, constructed, and targeted for persons with a disabling condition.


State Housing Initiatives Partnership: $105 million in total funding. Each local government must use at least 20% of its allocation to serve persons with special needs, with first priority for persons with developmental disabilities.


Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act


During the Regular Session, the Legislature passed the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The ABLE Act eases financial strains faced by individuals with disabilities by making tax-free savings accounts available to cover qualified expenses such as education, housing, and transportation.


This legislation implements the federal ABLE Act of 2014, which was sponsored by Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-Jacksonville). Currently, individuals with disabilities can have a maximum personal savings of only $2,000 before they start to lose federal benefits. The ABLE Act allows an individual with a disability that occurred before the age of 26 to save up to $100,000 for their future needs in a tax free account without jeopardizing state and federal benefits. Those funds could then be used for certain expenses like education, housing, transportation, employment support or health and wellness, enabling the individual to have a higher level of economic independence and hopefully a better quality of life.


Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts: $55 million, including $53.4 million for student scholarships (up from $18.4 million in Fiscal Year 2014-15). PLSA funds support the second year of program implementation, including expansion of the program to include 3- and 4-year old children with disabilities, students with muscular dystrophy, and students with autism under a broader autism spectrum disorder definition.


McKay Scholarships: $228 million to the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program that allows parents of students with disabilities to choose the best academic environment for their children. This program provides eligible students the opportunity to attend a participating private school or transfer to another public school. Funding was increased by an estimated $22.2 million over the current fiscal year.


FEFP ESE Guaranteed Funding: $6.7 million increase in FEFP funding for supplemental services for students with low to moderate disabilities for a total of $830.1 million.


FEFP- Level 4&5 ESE Services: an estimated $31 million increase in funding for services to students with significant disabilities for a total of $379 million.


Early Steps: $13 million increase in funding to serve children 0-3 with suspected or established developmental delay for a total of over $69 million.


Instructional Materials: At least $3 million (of FEFP funding for instructional materials) must be spent by school districts for the purchase of digital instructional materials for students with disabilities.


Workforce Development Pilot Program: $63,998 (of workforce education funds) is provided to fund an Adults with Disabilities Workforce Education Pilot Program in select Florida counties.


Vocational Rehabilitation Services: $216 million in state and federal funds are set aside to ensure education and employment services for adults with disabilities are prioritized and improved.


The Inclusive Transition and Employment Management (ITEM) Program: $750,000 provides young adults with disabilities with transitional skills, education, and on-the-job experience to allow them to acquire and retain employment.


Johnson Matching Gift Program: $772,500 to the Johnson Scholarship, which is a competitively awarded program available to undergraduate students with disabilities with financial need who enroll in a State University System of Florida institution.


Florida Housing Finance Corporation: $10 million is provided for a competitive grant program for housing developments designed, constructed, and targeted for persons with developmental disabilities.

Destin's Red, White and Blue Celebration Honors: Dr. Julie McNabb of Horizons, Emerald Coast Affiliate of The Arc

June 15, 2015

Destin's Red, White & Blue Hero Celebration at HarborWalk Village will take place every Thursday of the Summer at 7:00 PM. The patriotic event will honor a local hero who has gone above and beyond in our community. Stand up and salute as the Village Belles vintage themed tribute show takes you back in time with famous Andrew's Sisters classics like "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". Enjoy free kid's activities, a WWII vintage air show and a spectacular finale of fireworks over the Destin Harbor. Our sponsors proudly salute our heroes, Coca-Cola, Miller Lite, Jim Beam, Big Kahuna's and DELL.

Chief Executive Officer, Dr. McNabb and the entire team at Horizons work to include all children and adults with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities in every community. The focus is on abilities, respect, and choice for all and encourages active citizenship and inclusion in every community

Julie has dedicated the past 17 years living by the motto "From Disability to Capability." She has been actively working to provide residential, vocational, and support services for those individuals who are faced with disabilities. Even with 400 clients at Horizons, Julie knows each of them by name, along with what each person needs and their specific circumstances. It is this personalized attention that Julie gives that creates the special connection she has among her and the clients at Horizons.

McNabb takes a hands-on approach and isn't afraid to lead by example. Once when helping to re-vamp a home, not only did Julie gather help from local civilians and military volunteers, she herself came rushing to help, paintbrush and hammer in hand.Julie has always been the first one to arrive and the last one to leave when it comes to her work at Horizons. She might start her day giving a speech at a fundraiser on the rights of the disabled, and end the day holding hands and making a true connection with a client she serves at Horizons. Her employees ask why she gets so involved with her clients and with the company. Her response? "This is where I want to be".

Not only does Julie hold a very important role with Horizons, she also holds another role as a mother, wife, daughter, and sister. To her family, clients, friends, and to the entire Horizons community, Dr. Julie McNabb embodies the meaning of the word hero and continues to do so with her unwavering passion.

Outcomes of Special Session To Date

June 10, 2015

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.

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