Over a decade ago a group of concerned parents gathered around a kitchen table to have an important conversation about saving for their children’s futures. How could they save for their children with disabilities just like their children without disabilities?
Before the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in 2014, individuals in the disability community receiving government benefits were forced to adopt a “spend versus save” mentality and were restricted to a $2,000 asset limit associated with benefit programs.
Shortly after passage of federal legislation, Florida created its qualified ABLE program, ABLE United. The Florida Prepaid College Board was tasked to administer the program, offering tax-free savings and investment accounts like a 529 college savings plan. It’s like a savings account and a Special Needs Trust all rolled into one.
While the pandemic has impacted us all in many ways, I believe it has also reinforced the importance of saving for the unexpected. We’ve been able to help thousands of Floridians with varying disabilities build a brighter future and, in fact, we saw increased enrollment in 2020.
This year, we will continue our commitment to ensuring all Floridians with disabilities are educated on how they can start saving. Now, more individuals can serve in an administrative capacity over an ABLE account, including a spouse, parent, sibling, or grandparent.
The annual contribution limit is also increasing, which allows account holders to save up to $16,000 per calendar year – all with the help of friends, family, or even an organization. All funds saved in an ABLE account can be used to pay for everyday living expenses or for long-term savings goals like a new car or home. To open an account, individuals must be a Florida resident at the time of enrollment and have a qualifying diagnosis of a physical or mental impairment prior to age 26.
As we start a new year, we encourage individuals with disabilities to set their sights on saving and educate themselves about the opportunity that exist for them to Achieve a Better Life Experience.
John Finch is the director of ABLE United, Florida’s disability savings program.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Enhanced savings options for Florida’s disability community | Opinion