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Empowering Dreams: A Collaborative Effort to Support ABLE Education for Kansans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

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Thought Leadership Thursday Article

Empowering Dreams: A Collaborative Effort to Support ABLE Education for Kansans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
March 6, 2024
Steven Johnson
Kansas State Treasurer

Dear Colleagues,

March marks National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. As we know, Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) represent a large proportion of the 8 million individuals in the disability community who are already eligible to open ABLE savings accounts.

In the home state of disability rights champion, Senator Bob Dole, the Kansas ABLE Savings Program, the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities (KCDD) and the Kansas Department for Aging & Disability Services (KDADS), recently launched a new partnership to expand ABLE education and outreach to more than 5,200 individuals with IDD who are on the Kansas IDD Waitlist. In the coming weeks, we’ll be kicking off a months-long ABLE Roadshow, coupled with the first-ever ABLE incentive program for individuals specifically impacted by the long waiting list in Kansas.

Like many other states, Kansas is grappling with a lengthy waitlist of individuals seeking essential Home and Community Based Service (HCBS) waivers. Some have been waiting for more 10 years. These individuals, who can become lost in the bureaucratic shuffle, are more than just names on a list—they are dreamers, aspiring to live a life of fulfillment and independence.

2024 Kansas ABLE Roadshow & Ongoing Outreach

Our partnership is focused on education, opportunity and personal growth. An ABLE account is an empowering tool, but its power comes from the ability to comfortably save, invest and grow personal wealth. For decades, many in the disability community have been restricted in their ability to save and, outside of special needs trusts, never had the opportunity to invest. Investing can be intimating for many Americans, and living with a disability can increase that intimidation factor. It often requires personal, hands-on support – not just a phone call or emailing a link to a webpage – to make investing feel more accessible. Our joint efforts will involve workshops, small-group webinars, and community events throughout the Sunflower State aimed at providing that one-on-one support and education about the ABLE program.

We’re planning more than 50 stops across the state on the ABLE Roadshow, kicking off in April and ending in October (Disability Employment Awareness Month). On this tour we will be hosting in-person ABLE presentations with our Kansas Community Developmental Disability Organizations (CDDOs), and other disability advocates, family members, caregivers and stakeholders. Through these initiatives, we aim to demystify the enrollment process and break down barriers to entry, ensuring that the benefits of the ABLE program reach those who need them the most. You can also check out this WIBW interview about the Kansas Roadshow here.

New IDD Waitlist Incentive Program

In addition to our Kansas ABLE Roadshow, working with KCDD and several corporate partners, the Kansas ABLE Savings Program will be offering a new incentive program for individuals with IDD who are on the waiting list, participate in one of our online or in-person Roadshow sessions and open an ABLE account. This incentive, which is generously supported by KCDD, CareSource, Sunflower Health Plan, Arcare, and the Kansas Financial Empowerment Foundation, will provide $100 opportunity grants to these newly established Kansas ABLE accounts.

By supporting ABLE education for Kansas families on the IDD waitlist, we can unlock the potential of thousands of individuals and create a Kansas where everyone, regardless of ability, can thrive. Our hope is that our work in Kansas to expand ABLE education to individuals can serve as a model for other ABLE programs to expand and scale ABLE in their state.

In the heart of America, let us stand together, empowering dreams and building a brighter future for all.

By Kansas State Treasurer Steven Johnson and Sara Hart Weir, the Executive Director of Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities and Senior Advisor to ABLE today.

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