State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, kicked off National Disability Employment Awareness Month on Friday, Oct. 1, by recognizing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who are part of the work force and help to contribute to the Buncombe County and state economies.
Treasurer Folwell applauded Jasmine Calhoun and Annie Hetherington during a tour at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College to raise awareness of the NC ABLE Program (Achieving a Better Life Experience). Jasmine works at Old Navy and navigates public transportation to get to and from work. Annie works in housekeeping at a local hotel and helps to keep common areas clean. Both are NC ABLE account holders.
“I like earning money and I feel proud of being a hard worker,” Jasmine said.
The NC ABLE Act was signed into law in 2015. It allows individuals living with disabilities and their families to contribute to tax-advantaged savings accounts. Those accounts can fund essential disability services without endangering means-tested eligibility for benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.
Treasurer Folwell chairs the NC ABLE Board of Trustees, which oversees more than $13 million in assets for nearly 1,500 account holders. The money grows tax-free and can be used for qualified disability expenses such as housing, cell phones, adaptive equipment, transportation and virtually any other item that will help to provide a better life experience.
This year’s theme for the annual National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“North Carolina is in an employment crisis, which compounds the challenge of too many businesses still struggling to emerge from the economic slowdowns of the past year and a half,” said Treasurer Folwell, who is a staunch advocate of employing disabled individuals. “This is a ready, able and willing segment of the labor force that can help to fill business vacancies. And NC ABLE provides further means for those workers to experience the joy of achievement and upward mobility that every North Carolinian deserves.”
“A-B Tech Project SEARCH is an aspirational, unpaid internship experience for young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The program is designed to place interns in real-world employment situations and allow them hands-on experiential skills training,” said Tim Blekicki, supported employment coordinator for The Arc.
“The Arc of North Carolina supports the interns in the program and then helps them transition into competitive, integrated, paid employment in the community,” Blekicki said. “The Asheville program has a success rate of 93% of their graduates achieving their goal of employment.”
Following the NC ABLE event, Treasurer Folwell met with executives of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to present them with a check for missing funds totaling $6,111.
The money was issued through the NC Cash program managed by the Department of State Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division (UPD), which is required by law to safeguard unclaimed property until the rightful owners claim it. During the past fiscal year a record $70.4 million was returned. There are approximately 17 million properties in the UPD database valued at roughly $919 million. While reviewing records UPD staff identified the unclaimed assets that belong to the Asheville Chamber.