Share This Page

Proposed federal ABLE Act would help disabled save

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

Maddie Williams isn't allowed to receive checks written to her from her grandparents for her birthday or Christmas, her mother said.

Doing so would jeopardize the Medicaid benefits that the 4-year-old girl, who has Down syndrome, receives to cover the cost of her occupational, physical and speech therapies — the Medicaid asset limit is $2,000, said Maddie's mother, Courtney Williams, 33, of Point Breeze.

“In the future, if we are not around after she's 18, how do we provide for her and get her the things that she needs, if she's not allowed to have more than $2,000 in her name?” Williams asked.

Williams and her husband, Grant Williams, 33, support a proposed federal bill, the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, that would allow families of people with disabilities to set aside money in tax-advantaged savings accounts of as much as $100,000 to cover expenses related to health care, employment support, housing, transportation, technology and education for children and adults.

The Williamses attended a news conference on Thursday about the bill at the Strip District office of ACHIEVA, a South Side-based nonprofit that offers services and jobs to people with disabilities.

The ABLE bill is modeled on the 529 plans used to save for college education. Income earned would grow tax-free, and withdrawals for qualified, disability-related expenses would not be taxed.

An ABLE account would not affect Medicaid benefits. Supplemental Security benefits would not be affected as long as the ABLE account contains less than $100,000.

“I think ... what the ABLE Act means to families and people with disabilities is an opportunity to save money for when family members, moms and dads, are no longer around to provide things for their adult children, for emergencies that people have all the time and just for things that tend to be very expensive and that insurance and the government do not cover,” ACHIEVA President Nancy Murray said.

The bill has strong, bipartisan support from 70 senators and 359 representatives, said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, who re-introduced the bill in the Senate last summer and was at the news conference. He hopes that the bill will be passed in May, but before it can go to the floor for a vote, the Congressional Budget Office must provide a cost estimate of the bill, he said. The bill has been introduced three times since 2009.

The CBO has estimated that it would cost the federal government $1 billion over a 10-year period in lost tax revenue, said John Rizzo, a spokesman for Casey's office.

By 2020, the population of adults with autism in Pennsylvania will quadruple to more than 30,000 people, according to a 2013 report from the Department of Public Welfare, said state Rep. Dan Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.