WEST PALM BEACH/ JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott ceremonially signed Senate Bill 642, the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The bill establishes a trust fund for certain people with disabilities to use for important services such as education, housing, and transportation. Governor Scott also celebrated the elimination of the APD critical needs waiting list for the second year in a row in his “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget. The Governor held today’s event at Gulfstream Goodwill Industries in West Palm Beach. Later today, he will be celebrating this record funding in Jacksonville.

Governor Rick Scott said, “We have made significant accomplishments to help improve the lives of individuals with disabilities in Florida by signing the ABLE Act and continuing to eliminate the entire critical needs waiting list for a second year in a row.  We still have more work to do and that is why I look forward to once again recommend investments into vocational rehabilitation services to help provide job training to adults with disabilities in my proposed budget later this year.”

This year’s budget also includes $1 million for the Employment Enhancement Project (EEP) which better connects individuals with disabilities with possible employers and job opportunities. Governor Scott has provided a record investment of $1.2 billion for APD this year and $96 million over the past three years to help eliminate APD’s critical needs waitlist.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer said, “Serving everyone with immediate needs on the Medicaid waiver waiting list is a top priority for our Governor. I am so appreciative of Governor Scott’s 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget that invests $1.2 billion to support people with disabilities so they may be a part of their local communities. Thank you to Governor Scott and the Legislature for supporting APD customers and helping them achieve their goals.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “Our current system of reducing or cutting off benefits to those who exceed a relatively small income or asset threshold disincentivizes people with unique abilities from pursuing employment opportunities. Senate Bill 642, the Florida ABLE Act, corrects this issue and provides the opportunity for persons with unique abilities to use their talents in the workforce, earn a wage, and save for the future without the concern of losing important state and federal benefits.”

Speaker Steve Crisafulli said, “Governor Rick Scott is leading the way for opportunities for Floridians with disabilities. Providing $1.2 billion dollars in this year’s “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget allows APD to continue enriching the lives of thousands of Floridians and their families.”

Senator Joe Negron said, “Governor Scott’s “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget includes over $40 million to remove more than 2,000 individuals with critical needs from the waiting list. It is refreshing to see the quality of life in families improving due to the care and services the waiver’s funding provides.”

Representative Pat Rooney said, “The creation of the Florida ABLE program will help disabled individuals in our West Palm community save money without losing eligibility for many important benefits. We applaud SB 642 and Governor Scott’s ongoing support of Floridians with disabilities.”

Senator Audrey Gibson said, “I was happy to support SB 642 and I am glad the Governor is signing legislation that creates the Florida ABLE program, enabling more economic independence and a better quality of life for the individuals living with disabilities in our community and across the state.”

Representative Lake Ray said, “I applaud Governor Scott for his record investment of $40 million to remove over 2,000 individuals with disabilities from the waiting list for the second year in a row. Governor Scott has made it a priority to bring APD out of budget deficit and provide funding to care for Floridians with disabilities.

Senator Travis Hutson said, “Our community applauds Governor Scott’s record funding of $1.2 billion in his “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget.  Every individual should have the opportunity to get a great job and education regardless of the challenges they may face, and we are glad he made this funding a priority.

Representative Mia Jones said, “As an advocate for Floridians with disabilities, Governor Scott’s commitment to support the removal of individuals on the APD waiting list is great news. His ongoing efforts to offer waiver enrollment and job training to everyone with critical needs show his commitment to our West Palm and Jacksonville communities.”

Senator Aaron Bean said, “It was a great day in the Florida Senate when we passed this bill unanimously, and it’s a great day today when Gov. Scott signs it.  There is nothing better than when we can work as a team to accomplish important goals for Floridians, and I look forward to seeing the life-changing ways this program will help Floridians with unique abilities in Jacksonville and across the state.”

Representative Debbie Mayfield said, “I commend Governor Scott’s commitment to improving the lives of Floridians with disabilities. Governor Scott’s mission to remove more than 2,000 individuals with critical needs from the waiting list shows ensures every person has the opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of the challenges they may face.”

Area 9 Family Care Council Chair Karen W. Oberg said, “On behalf of the Family Care Council, Area 9 Palm Beach Co., and the families we represent who have members with developmental disabilities, we would like to thank Gov. Scott and the Florida Senators and Representatives who supported the $40 million allocated this year to reducing the numbers of disabled individuals desperately waiting for services. This will help approximately 2,000 families. The $1million dollars designated to Employment Enhancement Project will supply help to those who are able to be employed and are badly in need of training for jobs. The efforts of the Governor and our elected officials over the past few years have greatly heartened the hopes of families that Florida is taking a positive role in the support of our most needy citizens.

Elaine Scola, APD customer’s sister, said, “I have received news advising that $40 million will be released to expand the iBudget Medicaid waiver to help take approximately 2,000 individuals off the APD waiting list. I would like to take this opportunity to express my humble gratitude to Governor Rick Scott for his assistance in getting this budget passed. It was such a blessing when I learned that Jerry had been selected to receive the iBudget Medicaid waiver last year. Jerry and I have benefitted greatly from the waiver.”

Leslie Richards, APD Northeast Regional Operations Manager said, “Families served by APD in Northeast Florida are very energized by the support of Governor Rick Scott and the Florida legislature as demonstrated in the 2015-2016 budget. Many more individuals in need will receive community services with this additional money. We appreciate the continued backing of the Governor and the Legislature to ensure that people receive the services they require.”

Jon May, Pine Castle, Inc., Chief Executive Officer said “We are very pleased with Governor Scott’s support of funding for additional persons with developmental disabilities from Florida’s large waiting list.  We hope for his future support for improved rates to maintain quality services provided to these vulnerable citizens.”

Mary A. Smith, Family Care Council Florida Vice Chair said, “We sincerely thank Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for their continued funding support to address the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. With the 2015-2016 Budget, we mark the third year of additional funding that has been allocated for reduction of the waiting list.  This is the second year of funding to enhance employment services. This year’s “Keep Florida Working” budget added funding to enhancing quality affordable housing for individuals and better pay for support coordinators. Thank you for your continued support in our quest of quality support and stabilization of home and community services under APD for individuals with disabilities to promote independent and participation in their communities.”

APD annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call 1‑866‑APD‑CARES.

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