From the Executive Director - Spring 2017

Budget concerns have been a long-standing companion of the developmental services system.  In 2016 we acknowledged successful advocacy that resulted in hard won additional funding for providing services and operating regional centers.  As the proposal of the fiscal year 2017-2018 Budget for California was announced in January 2017, we now shift focus to potential reductions in funding from the federal government. Approximately 40% of regional center funds come from the federal government.

There are two major funding concerns for the developmental services system.  The first is a possibility of reduced State funding for Medicaid (Medi-Cal for California.)  Secondly, there may be use of General Fund monies for healthcare services if a repeal or partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) occurs without a seamless transition to another program and the state continues to fund services as currently provided through the ACA.  Over twenty billion dollars in federal funding is included in the proposed budget for provision of healthcare coverage for five (5) million people in California through ACA insurance and Medi-Cal.  This allocation is also planned to support expansion of Medi-Cal.  For fiscal year 2017-18, the developmental services system is proposed to be funded with approximately $6.9 billion. Federal funds should amount to $2.5 billion, roughly 40% of the proposed state funding.  

The January budget includes funding for new and important resources for people receiving services, including paid internships and incentive payments for competitive integrated employment (CIE.)  Developing employment opportunities for people receiving services is such an important part of supporting a quality community life.  Funding was provided in the 2016-2017 budget to ensure the delivery of culturally and linguistically competent services. TCRC welcomed Lilia Rangel-Reyes into her new role as Multicultural Specialist in January. Ms. Rangel-Reyes has been accepted to participate in a national Leadership Institute on Cultural Diversity and Cultural and Linguistic Competence. We look forward to Lilia’s contributions in this important work.

Funds have also been earmarked for:

  • Safety Net Services
  • Self-Determination Services
  • Enhanced Behavioral Supports Homes and Crises Homes
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Final Regulations for Home and Community Based Services
  • Developmental Services Task Force 

Our system has continued to refine our resources and plans to support individuals with higher needs for behavioral support.  Safety Net Services are intended for individuals moving to the community from IMDs and from developmental centers, including individuals residing in the Porterville DC secure treatment program.  Intensive supports within a community residential model are best suited for individuals moving from these more highly restrictive and specialized residential services. Enhanced Behavioral Supports Homes and Crisis Homes are also in development to assist individuals to move into the community.  

Self-Determination Services are closer to approval from CMS.  The Department of Developmental Services has now responded to all requested information from CMS for federal approval for the delivery of services.  TCRC’s Local Advisory Committee for Self-Determination has met regularly quarterly; look for information about the Committee and the future meeting dates on the TCRC website.  If you are interested in applying for Self-Determination Services, let your Service Coordinator know.

Another initiative awaiting CMS approval is the Statewide Transition Plan (STP), as the Department of Health Services has re-submitted the STP) for approval. This Plan will ensure compliance with regulations for Home and Community-Based Services for individuals receiving Medicaid.  DDS will develop a process for implementing federal regulations through the input and guidance of a stakeholder group.  2016 funding allows for regional center staff to assess providers’ compliance as well as fund service providers to make necessary modifications.  TCRC will develop methods of ensuring that providers are supported to meet the requirements. 

With the uncertainty around the impact of any changes in federal funding for the developmental services systems as a result of reductions in Medicaid, or the Affordable Care Act, we face very different challenges than in recent years.  It is critical for our system to develop strategies for informing members of Congress in Washington, as well as legislators in Sacramento.  

Once the May 2017 revision of the 2017/2018 California Budget is announced, we will have more information about talking points and specific issues to emphasize in our communications with our legislators and the federal government.  For more information about the budget and to track budget committee and subcommittee hearings, visit the Budget Watch section on the TCRC web site.  Please stay informed and opt into TCRC’s email list.

As the developmental service system faces this potential challenge, TCRC remains committed to ensuring that quality services support community lives for people with developmental disabilities.  Let’s all work together to respond with a strong advocacy plan as we learn more about the framework of the CA budget and the potential impact of reductions in federal funding.  I commend those who have worked tirelessly advocating on behalf of people with disabilities, we will stand strong, we will remain united.

TCRC Welcome Orientations

You are invited to a TCRC Welcome Orientation

We hope you will join us for this informative meeting to learn more about how Tri-Counties Regional Center can help you and your family. 

We recognize you may have many questions and are eager to find answers. This orientation will give you an overview of services available and explain the role of your TCRC Service Coordinator. 

During the orientation you will be able to: 

Get information about the services and supports available to you

Ask questions

Learn how to best work with your TCRC Service Coordinator

Meet TCRC Managers, Staff, and Family Resource Center Parents

TCRC Welcome Orientations will be offered across the Tri-Counties during the month of May. 

May 9,   2017 | Oxnard

May 10, 2017 | Santa Maria

May 11, 2017 | Simi Valley

May 17, 2017 | Atascadero

May 18, 2017 | San Luis Obispo

May 19, 2017 | Santa Barbara

All orientations will be held from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM. Children are welcome. However, no childcare will be provided. 

There are many ways you can register for the Welcome Orientation nearest to you: 

1.Online by inserting the link of the location you would like to attend into an internet browser (requires an email address)

2.Contact your Service Coordinator for assistance with registration.

3.If you do not yet have a Service Coordinator, please contact Colleen Duncan for assistance at 805 823-2305 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

4.FAX your information to 805-512-8513, using the form below.

Welcome Orientation Flyer and Form

CalABLE

California Achieving a Better Life Experience (Cal ABLE)

Join us at upcoming presentations!

Tri-Counties Regional Center and State Council on Developmental Disabilities, Central Coast Office, are pleased to offer this free presentation by:

Christina Elliott, Executive Director California ABLE Act Board

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 1-3pm
Tri-Counties Regional Center
7305 Morro Rd, Suite 104A Atascadero, CA 93422

Please RSVP at (805) 543-3277 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 6-8 pm
Tri-Counties Regional Center
1234 Fairway Drive, Suite A Santa Maria, CA 93455

Please RSVP to Norma Puga at (805) 347-2775 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Target Audience:  Individuals served by TCRC and their families, Service Providers (including Licensed Residential, ILS, SLS), and TCRC Staff

 

Click here for CalABLE Fact Sheet

What is CalABLE?

California Achieving a Better Life Experience (CalABLE) is a new program that will allow people with disabilities to establish tax-advantaged savings accounts with the ability to save up to $14,000 (currently) per year and up to $100,000 in total without losing vital public benefits such as Medi-Cal, SSI or SSDI.

Eligibility Requirements

• Must be disabled before age 26 AND

• Currently receiving, or eligible for, SSI/SSDI OR

• Self-certification: Has been diagnosed by a qualified physician with a physical or mental disability resulting in marked and severe functional limitations that is expected to last no less than 12 months.

How can I use ABLE accounts?

Moneys in CalABLE accounts can be used for “Qualified Disability Expenses” (QDEs), which relate to the person’s disability and help maintain or improve health, independence, or quality of life. Some examples of a QDE include expenses related to a beneficiary’s education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive living technology and related services, personal support services, financial management services, legal fees and funeral and burial expenses.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is an ABLE Account?

A: An ABLE Account is an investment account available to eligible individuals with disabilities. ABLE Accounts are made possible by the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) Act. ABLE Accounts allow individuals with disabilities to save and invest money without losing eligibility for certain public benefits programs, like Medicaid, SSI, or SSDI. Earnings in your ABLE Account are not subject to federal income tax, so long as you spend them on “Qualified Disability Expenses” (see below). 

Q: Are ABLE Accounts like bank checking or savings accounts?

A: Many ABLE Account programs have some similar features. We anticipate California’s ABLE Accounts will function like a checking and savings to a large degree; however they will be set up as primarily longer term investment accounts. You will have the ability to invest your money in a way the suits the varying levels of risk appetites our diverse population will likely have.

Q: Who is eligible to open an ABLE Account?

A: An “Eligible Individual” is someone who developed their disability before the age of 26. The individual must have been living with their disability for at least one year, or they must expect their disability to last for at least a year.

In addition, the individual must meet at least one of the following criteria:

·        Be entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of their disability;

·        Be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) because of their disability;

·        Have a condition listed on the Social Security Administration’s List of Compassionate Allowances Conditions; or

·        Be able to provide "self-certification" of their disability and diagnosis (see details below) when opening an ABLE Account. 

"Self-certification" simply requires an individual to agree to the following statements during enrollment:

·        The individual has a written, signed diagnosis from a licensed physician (note: individuals do not have to provide us with a copy of the diagnosis during enrollment, but a copy of the diagnosis must be available upon request); and

·        The individual is either:  

o   (1) blind, within the meaning of section 1614(a)(2) of the Social Security Act, or

o   (2) has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in "marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months"

Examples of conditions that result in "marked and severe functional limitations" can be found in the Social Security Administration's disability Blue Book. See Part A for adults and Part B for children.  A condition will also qualify if it is equal in severity to one of the conditions found in the Blue Book.

 

Q: How do I prove my eligibility?

A: For many if not all, currently available ABLE programs, you can prove eligibility online. We anticipate the California plan will be just as easy. Through an online portal, you may be asked a series of questions when you open your account. If you are self-certifying your disability, you will need to provide your doctor’s name and address and the date of your diagnosis. Although you will not need to produce a copy of your diagnosis in order to open an account, you must have a record of the diagnosis readily available.



Q: Do I have to be a resident of any particular state to open one of the available ABLE Accounts now?

A: No!  A resident of any state can open or an ABLE Account in Tennessee, a STABLE Account in Ohio, an ENABLE Account in Nebraska, or a MiABLE Account in Michigan.  Floridians have ABLE Accounts available to them as well, however, this program is not open to out of state residents.

Q: How can I use the money in my ABLE Account?

A: Money in your ABLE Account can be used to pay for Qualified Disability Expenses. An expense is “qualified” if:

 (1) You incurred the expense at a time when you were considered an Eligible Individual (see “Eligibility” above);
 (2) The expense relates to your disability; and 
 (3) The expense helps you to maintain or improve your health, independence, or quality of life.

Q: What are some examples of Qualified Disability Expenses?

A: Qualified Disability Expenses do not have to be merely medical expenses. They can include basic living expenditures. While the following list is not exhaustive, some examples of Qualified Disability Expenses are:

Education
• Tuition for preschool through post-secondary education
• Books
• Supplies and educational materials

Housing
• Expenses for a primary residence 
• Rent
• Purchase of a primary residence
• Mortgage payments
• Real property taxes
• Utility charges
NOTE: SSI benefits can be affected if you use ABLE funds for any housing expenses and don’t spend the money right away. To avoid any impact to your SSI benefits, be sure to spend housing money within the same calendar month that you withdraw the money. For example, if you withdraw $800 from your account on June 3rd for rent, you must pay that money to your landlord by June 30th. As long as you do not hold housing funds over from one calendar month to the next, the funds will not affect your SSI benefits. 

Transportation
• Use of mass transit
• Purchase or modification of vehicles
• Moving expenses

Employment Support
• Expenses related to obtaining and maintaining employment
• Job-related training

Health, Prevention and Wellness
• Premiums for health insurance 
• Mental health, medical, vision, and dental expenses
• Habilitation and rehabilitation services
• Durable medical equipment
• Therapy
• Respite care
• Long term services and supports
• Nutritional management
• Communication services and devices
• Adaptive equipment
• Personal assistance

Assistive Technology and Personal Support

• Expenses for assistive technology and personal support (e.g., a smart phone for a child with autism)

Miscellaneous Expenses
• Financial management and administrative services
• Legal fees
• Oversight and monitoring
• Home improvement, modifications, maintenance and repairs
• Funeral and burial expenses

 

Q: How do I prove that I am spending my money on Qualified Disability Expenses?

A: It is up to you to track how you spend the money in your ABLE Account. We will not ask you how you plan to spend your money. However, the IRS may ask you to verify your expenditures. You should keep good records on how you are spending your ABLE funds.

Q: What if I use my ABLE funds for something that isn’t a Qualified Disability Expense?

A: You may have to pay income taxes, plus a 10% additional tax, on those funds. Additionally, the non-Qualified funds you withdraw could be counted against you for purposes of determining your eligibility for means-tested public benefits programs, like Medicaid or SSI.

Q: Can I use ABLE Account funds for housing and rent?

A: Yes! But if you receive SSI benefits, be sure to immediately spend any money you withdraw for housing expenses, to avoid any negative impact to your SSI. As long as you spend the housing funds within the same calendar month that you withdraw the money, the housing payments will not affect your SSI benefits.  

Q: Who can set up an ABLE Account?

A: An Eligible Individual, the parent or legal guardian of an Eligible Individual, or the holder of a power of attorney for an Eligible Individual can set up an ABLE Account.

Q: Where do I go to open an ABLE Account?

A: STABLE Accounts available here: http://www.stableaccount.com/#section2

ENABLE Accounts available here: https://www.enablesavings.com/

ABLE TN Accounts available here: http://www.abletn.gov/advisor-resources.html

MiABLE Accounts available here: https://www.miable.org/

 

Q: How much does it cost to open an ABLE Account?  Is there a minimum amount I have to contribute in order to open an ABLE Account?

A: Online enrollment is free in most states. However, each program has different fees and costs associated with it. We encourage California residents to shop each state’s program to determine which best fits their needs; a tool comparing programs can be found at this site:
http://ablenrc.org/state_compare/. There will likely be advantages to California residents opening a CalABLE Account, as we will be able to utilize economies of scale and offer lower fees. More to come as we design the program this year.

Q: Can I have more than one ABLE Account?

A: No. Individuals can have only one ABLE Account.

Q: Do I have to pay taxes on the money in my ABLE Account?

A: You do not have to pay taxes on any money while it is in your ABLE Account. You also do not have to pay taxes on any money you withdraw from your ABLE Account, as long as you use the money to pay for Qualified Disability Expenses.

Q: Are there limits on how much I can contribute to an ABLE Account?

A: Yes.
• The maximum yearly contribution limit is currently $14,000.
• The maximum lifetime limit is currently $100,000 before certain benefits are suspended. Once your balance drops below the lifetime limit, you may resume making contributions. In California we plan to develop regulations that will outline exactly how participants are notified when these balances are close to being reached and ensure a mechanism is in place to help safeguard not only assets, but participants’ benefits as well.

Q: Who can contribute money into an ABLE Account? 

A: Anyone


 

Q: How can I take money out of my ABLE Account?

A: The CalABLE Board is currently designing the program.  We would love feedback on how you would like to be able to make withdrawals.

 

Q: Will the money I save in an ABLE Account affect my Medicaid eligibility?  

A: No. The money in an ABLE Account will not affect your eligibility for Medicaid benefits.

Q: Will I lose my SSI eligibility if I open an ABLE Account?

A: No, but your SSI benefits may be suspended if your ABLE Account balance is over $100,000. Any money in your ABLE Account over $100,000 will be treated as a countable resource when determining your SSI benefits.  You will begin receiving your benefits again once your ABLE Account balance drops to or below $100,000.


Q: Can an individual with a disability work and maintain an ABLE Account?

A: Yes, as long as the individual meets the eligibility requirements for an ABLE Account.

Q: Can I have an ABLE Account and a Special Needs Trust or other type of Trust?  

A: Yes, you can maintain your ABLE Account in addition to trusts. Please consult a licensed financial planner or trust attorney for more information on how to concurrently utilize both of these resources.


Q: Can I make a tax-exempt transfer of funds from an existing 529 college savings account to an ABLE Account?

A: There are efforts in Congress to not only allow for such transfers, but increase age eligibility and increase the amount of money earned through employment to be saved in an ABLE account:

·       S. 2704 and H.R. 4813 would increase age eligibility for the ABLE program from 26 to 46.

 

·       H.R. 4794 and S. 2703 would allow tax-free rollovers between 529 programs and ABLE accounts.

 

·       H.R. 4795 and S. 2702 would allow individuals with disabilities to save more in their ABLE accounts if they work and earn income. H.R. 4795 would allow an ABLE account holder to save up to the Federal Poverty Level if they are working. The bill would also allow ABLE account holders to qualify for an existing savings tax credit.

 

 

Contact: Christina Elliott. Executive Director. 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (916) 653-1728

 

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CalABLE

Like us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CalABLE_Board

Check out our Website: http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/able/

Take and Share Our Survey (in English): https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CalABLE

 

Take and Share Our Survey (in Spanish): https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Spanish_ABLE

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