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New Programs to Improve Lives in California�s Disability Community

Small businesses across California are now eligible for much needed financial support and millions of people with disabilities can safely increase their savings without losing vital public benefits thanks to new programs being implemented by State Treasurer John Chiang.

�Without a doubt, offering financial relief to California�s hard-working small business owners and developing a program that offers a life-enhancing savings plan for persons with disabilities, counts as some of the most gratifying work I�ve overseen,� Chiang said.

�These programs meet the very real, long-standing needs of millions of Californians who need our help the most.�

The California Achieving a Better Life Experience (CalABLE) program is scheduled to become available in the summer of 2017 to anyone eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of a disability. The program allows for $100,000 in a tax-free account without risking the loss of SSI or any other federal or state benefit programs.

Prior to President Obama signing the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act), a person with a disability was not able to have more than $2,000 in liquid assets, or earn more than $680 per month and still remain eligible for SSI.

Individuals, their family members and friends may all contribute to a CalABLE account. Account earnings accumulate tax-free. And withdrawals, provided they are applied to qualifying disability expenses, also are tax-free.

You can obtain additional information on CalABLE by emailing or calling (916) 653‑4046.

Another newly implemented program under the aegis of the Treasurer is designed to help small businesses meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Among other things, ADA regulations require commercial facilities, including stores and restaurants, to remove architectural barriers that might prevent people with physical or mental medical conditions from enjoying the facilities the same as everyone else does.

But for many small businesses, the cost of making buildings accessible by building ramps, widening entranceways, creating special parking and redesigning bathrooms, can be prohibitively expensive.

�Small businesses, especially truly small businesses, have a razor-thin profit margin. They don�t have a lot of extra cash to be able to upgrade their facilities,� said Renee Webster-Hawkins, Executive Director of the Treasurer�s California Pollution Control Financing Authority (CPCFA).

The California Capital Access Program (CalCAP) ADA Financing Program addresses these issues.

Governor Brown signed AB 1230 authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, in October 2015. The legislation authorized the California Pollution Control Financing Authority to administer the $10 million California Capital Access Americans with Disabilities Act Financing Program.

The program provides small businesses with access to capital to finance physical alterations and retrofits to help them comply with the ADA requirements. Participating lenders can now offer small businesses loans with coverage of up to $50,000 to make tenant improvements for ADA compliance. The program deposits a cash premium into an account for qualifying loans for up to five years and lenders can apply for a claim on the premium in the event of a default.

�Accessing capital is one of the biggest issues right now, especially for entrepreneurs. I think what this program will do is give access to capital for those people looking to do the improvements that are needed and required,� said Julio Ortiz of Opening Doors Inc., a Sacramento-based micro lender that offers loans to small businesses.

Eligible small businesses include existing businesses with 15 or fewer full-time employees, gross incomes of less than $1 million, and facilities with 10,000-square-feet or less.

The program is available as of August 29, 2016.

"We want to bring dignity and decency and respect to disabled individuals. Often you have small businesses who want to do the right thing but they have challenges accessing capital to make sure they can do the appropriate upgrades," Chiang said. �This new program is a win-win for the disabled community and small businesses in our state.�

Visit the CalCAP/ADA webpage for more information on the program and register for the ListServ to receive information and updates.