Our disabled community members face many more obstacles in life than the rest of us. From obtaining and keeping a job, to daily commutes, to communicating with ease, many parts of everyday life that we take for granted are often out of reach for those who live with a disability. In order to assist these citizens, state and federal governments have enacted benefits to help with these obstacles. Unfortunately, in order to qualify for these government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security, or Medicaid, one can’t have more than $2,000 in savings. Essentially, in order to qualify for government disability benefits, one must live in poverty.
This all changed on December 19, 2014 when President Obama signed into law bipartisan legislation entitled the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The law created a new special savings account, modeled after 529 college savings plans, through which people with disabilities can now save up to $100,000 without losing state and federal disability benefits. The ABLE Act was passed to help those with disabilities cover the costs associated with a variety of essential expenses including medical and dental care, education, community based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing, and transportation.
People with disabilities can open these special ABLE accounts only after their specific state-level lawmakers pass that state’s version of the ABLE Act. Fortunately, 31 states have enacted their respective versions of the ABLE legislation. Two more states’ legislatures, California and New York, have passed a bill which is awaiting the Governor’s signature before it becomes law. While it’s encouraging that 31 states have passed legislation, it does highlight that 17 states and the District of Columbia have not yet introduced, or if introduced have not yet passed ABLE legislation. These 17 states include: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
As Quotarians, we follow a mission to empower women, children, the deaf, hard-of-hearing, and the speech-impaired. While we support and fund deaf resources, we also aim to empower all disadvantaged members of our communities. Please consider taking time to help expand the ABLE Act to all 50 states. What can you do?
- If you live in California or New York, you can call the governor’s office and voice your support for the ABLE Act and encourage him to sign it into law.
- If you live in one of the previously-mentioned 17 states or District of Columbia, you can contact your local state legislator and encourage them to introduce and pass this beneficial legislation.
- If you live in one of the 31 states where this is already law, feel free to thank your state-level lawmakers. And if you wish to advocate more, consider working with Quotarians in neighboring states where the ABLE Act has not yet been enacted.
- If you live outside the United States, we encourage you to engage with your local and federal lawmakers to see what is being done to help disabled members of your communities overcome similar obstacles.
Doing so will help countless community members living with disabilities. If you need help getting started, reach out to Quota Staff. We’re here for you.
For more information on ABLE implementation in your state, the National Down Syndrome Society made this helpful guide: http://www.ndss.org/Advocacy/Legislative-Agenda/Creating-an-Economic-Future-for-Individuals-with-Down-Syndrome/ABLE-State-Bills/.