Financial Management Service Options in the Self-Determination Program

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The California Self-Determination Program grants state funding to individuals with disabilities so that they can access services that help them live safely and independently. The only required service for participants is a financial management service, which helps individuals and families manage their budgets effectively.

Below, we explore your financial management service options so that you can choose the right plan for your needs.

What Is a Financial Management Service (FMS)?

A financial management service, or FMS, helps Self-Determination Program participants and their families manage their budgets, pay bills, and manage payroll for hired support workers. In other words, an FMS takes care of everything related to using the money the SDP provides its participants. 

The people and groups that run an FMS are known as FMS providers. They are individual or entity vendors created by Regional Centers. Their job is to make sure participants have the financial resources they need to bring their Individual Program Plans to life. 

Think of an FMS as your personal accounting service. Your FMS provider can do things like:

  • Paying taxes for any services or employees your needs warrant
  • Documenting the money you spend and ensuring it stays within your budget
  • Preparing budget statements for each month
  • Sending out paychecks to hired employees

Why do I need a financial management service?

Financial management services are required for all Self-Determination Program participants. You must use an FMS provider to access the services and support you need.

Types of Financial Management Services to Consider

There are a few types of financial management services available, and each has its own benefits. You can choose the model that best fits your needs and wants for the funds that you get in your individual budget. FMS providers might offer one, two, or all three of these models:

  • Fiscal Agent
  • Fiscal/Employer Agent (F/EA)
  • Co-Employer

1. Fiscal Agent

Sometimes known as the “bill payer” model, this option is for participants who do not plan to hire employees. Your FMS provider takes care of bills for things like appointments, assistive technology, and more.

2. Fiscal/Employer Agent (F/EA)

This option, also referred to as the “sole employer” model, is designed for participants who do plan to hire employees and want to be the only employer. If you want to have the authority to hire and fire employees, this is the FMS for you. But you will assume all liability for your employees.

In this type of FMS, your provider will help you with specific employment tasks like managing payroll or withholding taxes. You’ll also need to acquire any insurance necessary for your employees, which you can pay for using your allotted budget. 

3. Co-Employer

Finally, participants who plan to hire employees but do not want to be the only employer should choose this financial management service option. The co-employer model allows you to share employer responsibilities with your FMS provider. Think of yourself as a manager and your FMS provider as the CEO. 

How to Choose the Right FMS for Your Needs

The best FMS for you will likely depend on how you plan to use the money you get from the Self-Determination Program. It’s okay if you’re not sure how to use these funds just yet. You can contact your local Regional Center to learn more. You can also work with an independent facilitator from NeuroNav. We’re here to give you the tools you need to enter and utilize the SDP successfully and confidently. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you.


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