Disability advocates are launching a major push to pressure Congress to pass legislation before year’s end that would offer a new way to save money without jeopardizing government benefits.
A broad coalition of three-dozen national organizations is backing the effort to support legislation known as the Achieving Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act. The bill would allow people with disabilities the ability to create special savings accounts where they could accrue as much as $100,000 without losing access to benefits like Social Security or Medicaid.
Advocates with the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks and The Arc are convening a press conference this Thursday on Capitol Hill to mark the one-year point since the bill was initially introduced and to revive their efforts to get the proposal enacted.
With 240 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives and 38 in the Senate, Sara Weir, vice president of advocacy at the National Down Syndrome Society, says momentum behind the bill is strong and advocates intend to capitalize on it. Weir’s group is targeting key members of Congress by flying in a group of 20 self-advocates and parents of those with disabilities from their districts across the country to lobby lawmakers in Washington this week.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find another piece of legislation that has as much bipartisan support as the ABLE Act,” Weir said, noting that backers of the bill span the ideological spectrum in Congress, including everyone from Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. “We definitely feel like we have the support to pass the legislation. Right now we’re just trying to figure out what the legislative vehicle is going to be.”
Under current law, people with disabilities often cannot have more than $2,000 to their name without forfeiting many government benefits. The ABLE Act would allow individuals to open up an account at any financial institution that would not be subject to the asset limits.
What’s more, the proposed ABLE accounts are modeled after the popular 529 college savings plans and interest earned on savings within the accounts would be tax-free.