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Call US Senators Today about Housing Supports; Learn about ABLE updates

We have two national issues to update you on, and actions for you to take today and tomorrow!

Money Follows the Person (MFP) is a federally funded demonstration program that helps people with disabilities move from institutional settings such as state-run developmental centers and nursing homes to live in community-based residential settings. North Carolina has used funds to help individuals with autism in programs such as PATH, or who are in other institutions to live in community settings. MFP has been shown to be a cost-effective way for states to improve outcomes for people leaving institutions. The demonstration program expired Sept. 30, 2016, and states are running out of funds.

The EMPOWER Care Act, S.2227 introduced in Congress, would improve and extend the program for five years.

Call your senators now!

  • Thursday, Feb. 1, is a national call-in day for the EMPOWER Care Act! Call the Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to Sen. Thom Tillis and Sen. Richard Burr. Please ask them to co-sponsor the EMPOWER Care Act to fund Money Follows the Person and to support its passage. Sen. Burr’s support is particularly important because of his role on the Senate Finance Committee, but please contact both of their offices. Talking points:
    • MFP supports community living.
    • It gives people grhttps://savewithable.com/nc/home.htmleater control over their lives.
    • It improves lives while saving money.
    • And, as always, let the senators know why this is important to you or someone you know.
  • Friday, Feb. 2, is a national social media action day for MFP. Tweet and post on Facebook asking for the senators’ support for the EMPOWER Care Act. Tag @SenThomTillis and @SenatorBurr in your Tweets, or tag them in Facebook posts if you are connected there. Use #FundMFP in your tweets and posts.
  • More information about the days of action to support the bill is available on Facebook.

 

ABLE changes included in tax legislation

The ABLE program is celebrating its first anniversary of operation in North Carolina. For those who have not yet heard about ABLE, it is a way for people with disabilities, including autism, and those who care about them to save for future or current needs. Funds in these accounts, up to a certain amount, are not included as an asset for purposes of Medicaid health coverage or other government benefits programs. Learn more about NC ABLE on its website or by calling 1-888-627-7503. NC ABLE staff also will attend the Autism Society of North Carolina annual conference March 23-24 in Charlotte.

Included in the federal tax legislation that was signed into law in December 2017 were several provisions to improve the ABLE program:

  • People can now roll over funds from traditional 529 college savings plans into ABLE accounts.
  • People with disabilities who have an ABLE account are now allowed to contribute more of their earned income to their accounts. ABLE is currently capped at $15,000 in contributions per year, but account-holders who are working can contribute up to an additional $12,060 (the federal poverty limit). Contributions over the $15,000 are viewed differently by Medicaid and Social Security: they may affect eligibility for those programs and account-holders must carefully monitor contributions to ensure they understand they could lose benefits or face tax issues. Because of the complexity and the implications for program participants, states are moving slowly on implementing extra contributions. NC has not yet started allowing this option, and legislation may be required to update NC’s ABLE Act.

 

ABLE account owners sought for advisory committee

The ABLE National Resource Center, a collective group of leading national disability organizations united to help realize the promise of the ABLE Act, seeks to identify up to eight ABLE account owners to participate as an Advisor Group. They are looking for a diverse group of parents and working age adults with disabilities. The deadline to apply is February 9.

Advisors must be comfortable with the center sharing their experience as account holders through various platforms and with participating in advisory meetings six times per year via conference call. Participants who are selected, and fully participate in the work of the group, may be eligible for a contribution to their ABLE account from the center.

For more information about the work of the advisory committee and how to apply, go to the ABLE Resource Center website.

 

To learn more about how to advocate with your legislators, see our website.

The Autism Society of North Carolina will continue to monitor state and federal policy issues and post updates. Please be on the lookout for our action alerts so that you know when the autism community needs you to advocate with your elected representatives. Sign up for public policy emails on our website.

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