Clock Ticking On Plan For Disability Savings Accounts
Advocates are pushing Congress to act before the end of the year on a bill that would allow people with disabilities to save money without jeopardizing their government benefits.
Key legislators said in September that they reached a deal to move forward on legislation known as the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act.
Now, advocates are urging the U.S. House of Representatives to schedule a vote on the bill the week after Thanksgiving to allow time for the U.S. Senate to follow suit before Congress adjourns for the year.
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“Everything is very, very urgent,” said Sara Weir, vice president of advocacy at the National Down Syndrome Society. “This is the most popular and most bipartisan bill before Congress and we hope that they will act swiftly.”
Under the ABLE Act, people with disabilities would be able to save up to $14,000 annually in special accounts that could be established at any financial institution. Individuals could accrue up to $100,000 in savings without risking eligibility for government benefits like Social Security. And, Medicaid coverage could be retained no matter how much money is deposited.
Money set aside in the proposed ABLE accounts could be used to pay for education, health care, transportation, housing and other expenses. What’s more, interest earned on savings within the accounts, which are modeled off of the popular 529 college savings plans, would be tax-free.
The bill has languished in Congress since 2006, but committee action earlier this year positioned the legislation for the first time for floor votes in the House and Senate.
However, the window of opportunity is closing quickly. Without approval this year, the process would start anew when a new Congress convenes in 2015.
Weir said she’s optimistic that the bill, which is co-sponsored by 85 percent of members in both the House and Senate, will get a vote in December.
For their part, lawmakers have largely been silent on the measure in recent months. But in a statement earlier this fall, the bill’s chief sponsors and leaders of the Senate Committee on Finance said they were working toward sending the ABLE Act to the president’s desk during the lame-duck session.