Capitol Correspondence - 03.09.21

Congress Re-Introduces Legislation to Increase Access to ABLE Accounts

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ANCOR has long advocated on behalf of ABLE accounts, which allow people with disabilities to save up to $15,000 a year for disability-related expenses without exceeding asset limits that would trigger them to become ineligible for essential public benefits. We are pleased to share that legislation that would expand the eligibility pool for ABLE accounts has been re-introduced by Congress; see below for the press release by the offices of Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) on the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. ANCOR has signed onto coalition letters to the House and Senate supporting this legislation.

“U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would expand access to a program that allows people with disabilities to save money. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Age Adjustment Act (S. 331) would increase program eligibility and allow people who have acquired a disability before age 46 to open ABLE accounts. ABLE accounts, which are managed by states, currently allow individuals who acquired a disability before age 26 to open a savings account for their disability expenses—without the risk of losing disability benefits such as Supplemental Security income and Medicaid. U.S. Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), Judy Chu (D-CA-27) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (D-WA-05) introduced the House companion to the bill.

‘Before the passage of ABLE, people with disabilities had fewer opportunities to earn income compared to their working-age peers. People with disabilities are less likely to be employed, more likely to be underemployed and are twice as likely to live in poverty. Those factors, combined with significant penalties preventing people from saving, often put people with disabilities and their families in difficult financial situations,’ said Senator Casey. ‘The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would make more than 6 million adults with disabilities, including 1 million veterans with disabilities, eligible to open ABLE accounts and help all people who acquire disabilities between 26 and 46 years of age to achieve financial independence and economic stability.’

‘The savings plan created through the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act has provided Americans with disabilities better options in preparing for their future by removing burdensome barriers within federal entitlement programs’, said Senator Moran. ‘While the program has seen immense success, ABLE savings accounts are currently only available to individuals who acquire their disability prior to their 26th birthday, leaving out millions – including veterans – who would otherwise qualify. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would expand the age of eligibility and help sustain this program on a long-term basis, providing substantial financial security for Americans with disabilities.’

‘ABLE accounts already help thousands of Americans with disabilities live a fuller life,’ said Representative Cárdenas. “This legislation builds on that progress and eases the financial burden that many of these families face. It expands opportunities for parents to save for the future and support their families. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with my colleagues.”

‘People with disabilities can often expect substantial future expenses, like healthcare, while also being more likely to be underemployed or unemployed—making it difficult to create financial security for themselves and their families,’ said Representative Chu. ‘Fortunately, ABLE accounts help people with disabilities to start saving for those expenses when they’re young, putting them on a path to a more stable future, without jeopardizing other forms of aid they are entitled to. This simple fix will expand the eligibility to allow those with disabilities that occur later in life to also plan for their future needs.’

‘The primary goal of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act is to build on the incredible progress we’ve made to empower people with disabilities to live fuller and more independent lives,’ said Representative McMorris Rodgers. ‘This legislation will expand access to tax-free ABLE accounts for people who develop a disability later in life. With an ABLE account, people can invest in their education, pay for medical expenses, and look for a job. When they find a job, it can even help them cover the cost of getting to work. In short, ABLE puts our focus on every person’s abilities and God-given talents, not their limitations. There is more work to be done to build on the legacy of the ABLE Act, but I’m confident this is a great step that will empower more people to live with dignity and reach their potential.’

The ABLE Act, which was introduced by Senators Casey and Richard Burr (R-NC), was signed into law in 2014. Prior to the passage of ABLE, individuals could not accumulate more than $2,000 in assets such as a savings or retirement account without potentially losing their federal benefits. Now individuals can open an ABLE account in 43 states and the District of Columbia, and contribute up to $15,000 a year and have a total of up to $100,000 in their account without risking the loss of federal disability benefits. The savings can be used for disability related expenses including home modifications, education, transportation and assistive technology.

In 2018, Sen. Casey held an Aging Committee hearing entitled, Supporting Economic Stability and Self-Sufficiency as Americans with Disabilities and their Families Age, during which he highlighted how the ABLE program has benefitted Pennsylvanians. According to the National Association of Treasurers, 82,000 ABLE accounts have been opened nationwide and more than $640 million has been invested in these accounts.

The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 331) is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Boozman (R-AR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).”