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New 529 ABLE Savings Accounts Will Help Individuals with Disabilities

A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
Individuals with disabilities and their family members will soon have a new way to save and plan for future expenses with the creation of the 529 Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program.

The ABLE program is similar to the successful 529 College Savings Account program.

ABLE accounts are a tax-advantaged savings account that individuals with disabilities can use to pay for qualified expenses.

Specifically, under the program, a qualified expense is one that is related to the eligible individual’s disability.

This includes expenses concerning education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, financial management, legal fees, funeral and burial expenses and other expenses approve by U.S. Treasury.

Once enrolled, individuals or families can put up to $14,000 a year in the account.

One of the most important benefits of the ABLE accounts is that the first $100,000 saved in the account is not treated as a personal asset and is therefore exempt from Medicaid and supplemental income eligibility requirements.

This is an enormous help to families who rely on Medicaid for health care and other government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income.

Generally there are monetary limits on personal assets to qualify for these programs.

A 529 ABLE account will help those with disabilities or special needs achieve a better quality of life and independence to help pay for expenses which invariably arise without having to be concerned that they will lose their Medicaid coverage or supplemental income.

Those who qualify for a 529 ABLE account will be able to open an account with a participating financial organization, similar to how the college savings program is operated.

This new state law was made possible after changes in federal law that permitted states to establish ABLE accounts.

Currently, 32 states have established the savings account program.

In New York, the creation of the savings account program passed unanimously in both the Assembly and in the Senate and was signed into law by the Governor on December 22, 2015.

The enacting legislation requires the State Comptroller to establish the new savings account plan, in consultation with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Mental Health, Department of Health and Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

The program is still being established by the State Comptroller’s office and is not yet available to the public. However according to the Comptroller’s office, it is expected to be in place before the end of 2016.

To learn more, visit the State Comptroller’s site at http://www.osc.state.ny.us/college/able.htm.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.