Every morning, working people in Florida wake up and lie in bed…thinking ahead to their day..ideas to try out…plans to make…projects due…reports to be written. Some of these people have something extra on their minds…the arrival of their Personal Care Attendant (PCA) who will transfer them out of bed, bathe them, assist with catheter and bowel management, dress them, and get them out the door, because without this assistance they can’t go to work.
Persons with severe and chronic disabilities have tough choices with respect to how they live their lives – they can depend on meager government support, family members, and social service agencies, they can live in a nursing home, or they can work for a living to support themselves.
If they work, they have the opportunity to have what other people have – to live a self directed, community-based life that includes interaction with family and friends, productivity and meaning. Research indicates that people with disabilities want to work and they can work. Persons with disabilities of all kinds use accessible technology and accommodations to enable them to work in jobs and professions of all kinds.
To work, persons with severe and chronic disabilities need assistance with basic activities of daily living, like dressing, grooming and eating. They receive this help from a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) who must be reliable, honest, capable and affordable.
This is where things get difficult. PCA expenses range from $500 to over $2,000 per month; for persons with disabilities this expense is a disincentive and a great barrier to gaining and maintaining employment. This is especially true for young people with disabilities transitioning from home into their first job. To address this barrier, in 2005, the Florida Legislature established the Personal Care Attendant Program for persons who have quadriplegia as a result of a spinal cord injury.
In 2006, the Florida Legislature created a pilot project to determine if the program could be expanded to serve persons with severe and chronic disabilities of all types. In 2008, the Florida Legislature merged the two programs to create the James Patrick Memorial Work Incentive PAS Program for persons with all types of disabilities who need help with at least two activities of daily living.
Funding for the PCA program comes from the Tax Collection Enforcement Diversion Program. Currently, seven State Attorney’s offices in Florida operate a program in which unremitted sales tax is collected from delinquent business owners. In addition to the Diversion Program, the PCA program also receives revenues from the Bikers Care specialty motorcycle license plate.
The JP-PAS program is administered by the Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living and is governed by the JP-PAS Oversight Committee. The statutorily mandated Oversight Committee’s purpose is to assure that this program is delivered in an appropriate, fair and consistent manner according to FS 413.402.
The Florida Legislature and Governor Charlie Crist approved this program because they know that people with disabilities
- Contribute a wide range of skills and talents to the workforce
- Pay taxes – according to a survey done by the Able Trust in 1999, working persons with disabilities put 23% of their income back into the economy by paying taxes
- Create jobs for and pay personal care attendants
- Spend money in the community
- Act as role models to young people with disabilities
- Would be more likely to remain out of a nursing home because they are employed, independent, and assisted by a personal care attendant