The "Implementing California's ABLE Program" Webinar, which originally aired on November 16, 2016, is now available. You can access this webinar here: View Webinar. Please note that you will be asked to register in order to view the content. Materials distributed for this webinar, including its transcript, can be found here: Webinar Materials.
2016 has been a year of some great celebrations. The anniversary of 50 years of community services for people with developmental disabilities helped us to look at the past and appreciate the leadership of key legislators such as Frank Lanterman after whom the groundbreaking legislation the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act is named, along with parents who as pioneers of our system advocated strongly for change to better the lives of people with developmental disabilities in California. We are also celebrating the passage of a state budget for the new fiscal year 2016-2017 signed by Governor Jerry Brown on June 27, 2016 that in conjunction with ABX2-1 funding approved earlier in the year during a Special Session of the Legislature provides over $900 million in additional funding to our community services system. This restores most of the reductions enacted during the Great Recession. The approval of the additional funding is the culmination of several years of hard work, perseverance and coordinated efforts of many stakeholder groups throughout the state. Thank you to all who contributed to this successful effort.
The new state budget for FY 2016-2017 and the new special session ABX2-1 funding provides for a number of funding enhancements for the regional center system expected to serve over 303,000 individuals with developmental disabilities this year in the community. Some of the significant funding enhancements include a much needed rate increase for regional center service providers, the addition of up to 200 new regional center Service Coordinators to reduce caseload ratios, the establishment of a new higher rate for smaller 4 bed group homes, financial incentives to encourage development of internships and increased employment of persons with developmental disabilities, and additional funding to promote research and planning to address the impact of cultural, ethnic or racial differences in accessing and utilizing regional center services.
Additionally, the new budget calls for the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to hire an outside consultant to conduct a comprehensive study of the rates for service providers and funding for regional center operations. While the new additional funding provided this year is very helpful, a closer and more comprehensive analysis of the rates for service providers and funding for regional center operations is critical to the long term sustainability of our system. The rate study is due to be submitted by DDS to the Legislature by March 1, 2019. We are very pleased with this decision by the Legislature to examine the long term sustainability needs of our system and will keep a very close eye on the process to make sure we provide input.
With the additional new funding comes a considerable amount of behind the scene work needed by TCRC to implement these exciting changes. TCRC is currently in the process of implementing these exciting new enhancements within the Tri-Counties region. More details about the new budget can be found on the TCRC website at www.tri-counties.org. A full copy of the FY 2016-2017 enacted state budget can be found at http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/.
As these changes and projects are underway, a Local Advisory Committee for Self-Determination has been established and is gathering input to support the development and eventual implementation of Self-Determination when the program is fully approved by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS.) The committee has been meeting regularly this year and will be holding additional meetings for the remainder of the year. You can access information about the TCRC Self Determination Local Advisory Committee and future meeting dates on the TCRC website at www.tri-counties.org. The next step in the Self Determination Program is for DDS to resubmit the Waiver Application to CMS with updated information for review and approval. You can access the Self Determination Waiver Application on the DDS website at www.dds.ca.gov.
This has indeed been an exciting year for us celebrating the 50th anniversary of the community based services system and with the new funding from the state we are finally recovering from the Great Recession. We will, however, need to be more vigilant than ever to ensure we continue to provide strong and timely advocacy at the local level and in Sacramento to address the long term sustainability needs of our system and to keep an eye on important upcoming programs like Self Determination. Let’s looks for ways to continue to support the message that the Developmental Disabilities system requires continued support for its growing population deserving a quality life in the community.
The California ABLE Act Board is beginning the work to design a tax-advantaged savings plan where people with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities can save up to $100,000 without their vital federal and state benefits being suspended or negatively impacted.
The CalABLE program in California will open up life-improving opportunities for people with disabilities and their families. Contributions to an ABLE account, currently limited to $14,000 per year, can be made by family, friends, or the beneficiary themselves. The account’s earnings are allowed to accumulate tax-free, and the withdrawals, provided they are applied to qualifying disability expenses, are tax-free. The state hopes to make ABLE accounts available by summer 2017.
(If you are not already familiar with ABLE accounts, you can learn more by visiting www.ndss.org/able and http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/able/index.asp.)
The state really wants to learn more about potential CalABLE participants, and this survey is our first step in that process. This survey is intended to be completed by potential ABLE beneficiaries (account holders); parents, legal guardians, caregivers or other support personnel are encouraged to help fill it out if needed.
Thank you for partnering with the State in the development of this very important program!