ABLE Act: New Savings Options for Tennesseans with Disabilities

When the ABLE Act becomes law, people with disabilities will be able to save up to $100,000 to use for qualified expenses without losing their eligibility for government benefits. Photo credit: Rebecca Wilson/Flickr.

When the ABLE Act becomes law, people with disabilities will be able to save up to $100,000 to use for qualified expenses without losing their eligibility for government benefits. Photo credit: Rebecca Wilson/Flickr.

A bill aimed at promoting financial stability for individuals with disabilities now awaits the president’s signature after winning approval by the U.S. Senate. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act allows people with disabilities to save money without jeopardizing their eligibility for Social Security and Medicaid benefits. That’s key for financial security and independence, says Melanie Bull, public policy director for the Tennessee Disability Coalition. “It allows you to live and lead a more productive life,” says Bull. “It gives you some economic self-sufficiency and allows you to have a lot more flexibility with your employment, your health care, supplementary income, things like that.” Under current law, a person with a disability can’t have assets worth more than $2,000 without forfeiting program eligibility. The ABLE Act allows for a savings account of up to $100,000. These accounts would accept deposits from the family and friends of an individual with disabilities. Carrie Hobbs Guiden, executive director of The Arc Tennessee, says they would also be tax-exempt when used for qualified expenses such as education, housing and health care. “So, if you have extra medications and you have to pay co-pays, and you can’t afford those, it would help for that,” she explains. “If you have a job and you’re able to work, but you don’t have transportation because you can’t drive, it would help you pay for a driver to get you to and from your job.” It’s estimated that about 170,000 Tennesseans will be able to work and grow their savings without fear of losing their benefits once the ABLE Act is signed into law.