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Disabilities Advocates Aiming for a Prepaid Plan

Disabilities advocates from around the state have been working throughout the summer and fall on legislation that would allow parents of children with disabilities to set aside money for the future, similar to the state's prepaid college plan.

Last spring, the Legislature created a work group to examine the feasibility of a plan that would allow parents to invest money for a child with disabilities to be used at a later date, such as when the child has left the school system and needs some sort of support or training that they previously received in school.

The investment plan would be modeled after Florida Prepaid, which allows parents to pay for college at today's prices. According to the Florida Prepaid Web site, one out of 10 Florida children has a prepaid plan.

The group, along with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, has been drafting legislation that will likely be sponsored by Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, and Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, who both serve as members of the work group.

The problems, Skidmore said, lie in the details; it's not as simple as creating a savings account. Skidmore told the News Service Friday that the group has been spending a lot of time wading through potential tax issues as well as ways the plan could affect Medicaid.

“I think that philosophically it's a fabulous idea,” she said. “Technically, it presents some challenges.”

Ideally, the investment plans would be focused on people with disabilities who could transition into the workforce eventually, Skidmore said. The proposal will ultimately specify how the funds can be used. Among the proposed uses are funds for personal care aides, job training, vocational education and transportation.

“I think that it's something that parents who have a disabled child would want to look into and investigate,” Skidmore said. “And it's a way to have a little bit of control or feel like you have a little bit of a safety net as that child exits the education system. So you would still have something to fall back on.”

Deborah Linton, executive director of disabilities advocacy group ARC Florida, said a board member of ARC brought up the idea when she realized she could invest in Florida Prepaid for one child's future education, but did not have a similar program available for the other child who had a disability.

Linton said ARC Florida has been involved in the group meetings and has been pleased with the progress that the group has made.

“We've heard nothing negative,” she said.

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