A new law signed by President Barack Obama will allow people with disabilities to create tax-exempt bank accounts to pay for expenses they incur including education, transportation, housing and employment.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act amends the Internal Revenue Code and is designed to help people with disabilities become self-sufficient. Prior to the law’s passage, individuals with disabilities were eligible for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income only if they held $2,000 or less in savings.
“At long last, people with disabilities will be able to plan for their own futures and to build a life for themselves,” said William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of Jewish Federations of North America.
JFNA and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism had advocated for the passage of the ABLE Act.
ABLE allows the establishment of tax-free savings accounts of up to $100,000 to be used for specific expenses incurred due to a person’s disability. The funds can then be used to supplement any benefits received from private insurance, Medicaid and the Supplemental Security Income program.
The tax-free account is similar to the 529 Plan, which permits parents to set up tuition-free accounts to cover the higher-education costs of their children.
Barbara Weinstein, director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, called the ABLE Act an “important disability rights legislation. Our long-standing advocacy for passage of the ABLE Act is rooted in the words of Leviticus 19:14 that ‘you shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind,’ ” she wrote.
“Twenty-four years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ABLE Act builds upon its foundation to enhance the economic security of people with disabilities,” Weinstein said.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbilityUSA, praised the ABLE act for ending “years of financial discrimination” by allowing families to plan for the future of their children who have
However, she pointed out, the act only applies to those who acquired their disability before they turned 26 years old and does not apply to those who become disabled later in life.
When the ABLE Act became law, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, (R-Wash.), who worked for its passage, tweeted, “Today marks a new chapter for those with disabilities – one of opportunity & empowerment.”