The Buzz

Nonprofit, SC state agency both assist the disabled. Why is one suing the other?

Curtis Loftis
Curtis Loftis

Able South Carolina, a statewide nonprofit that assists people with disabilities, has filed a lawsuit against the state Treasurer’s Office because of its use of “SC Able” and “South Carolina Able” in marketing a savings program.

“It is unfortunate that we had to take this action,” said Kimberly Tissot, executive director for Able SC. “This is not what we want to spend our time doing.”

Able South Carolina encourages independent living by providing a variety of resources for people of all ages with disabilities. The nonprofit re-branded its trademark in 2012 to be consistent with the group’s mission statement.

The South Carolina Able Savings Program was launched in November 2016 by the SC Treasurer’s Office. SC Able provides people with disabilities a way to save and invest money while still being eligible for needs-based benefits programs, like Medicaid.

The board of directors for Able SC raised concerns about confusion for people seeking help. Tissot said the number one problem is consumers calling Able SC thinking it is the state treasurer’s office. Staffers at Able SC have to explain that they do not oversee the savings program and then redirect the callers to the correct number.

“It is difficult enough for the disability community to make a call, and having to be redirected causes confusion,” Tissot said.

Representatives from Able SC met with State Treasurer Curtis Loftis in September to request the name change and to agree to be a partner with SC Able to promote its savings program.

Able SC said that request was rejected.

In a statement on its website, the Treasurer’s Office said the program’s name can be changed only by the General Assembly and that the office remains “committed to working with all partners in the disability community.”

The programs have similar logos and similar website domain names.

“We have two great programs,” said Dr. David Dawson, the chairman of Able SC’s board. “Our goal is to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to find the information and services they need.”