MO ABLE program meets long-term savings needs of people with disabilities

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A new program in Missouri allows people with disabilities to save for long-term disability-related expenses via tax-free savings accounts.

State Treasurer Eric Schmitt announced the launch of the MO ABLE program in April. Similar to the 529 college savings plan, Missourians who contribute to ABLE accounts will be eligible for a tax deduction of up to $8,000, or $16,000 if married and filing jointly.

Earnings in ABLE accounts are not subject to federal or state income tax, as long as funds are spent on qualified disability expenses, such as education, health care, housing and transportation. It also allows individuals with disabilities to save money without losing eligibility for benefits programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Social Security Disability (SSDI).

Schmitt called it the most significant public policy change for people with disabilities since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

"It's about honoring the dignity of every individual, no matter what their abilities are," said Schmitt, a member of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves and a De Smet Jesuit High School alum. "For individuals, it's about financially empowering them, and for families, it's giving them peace of mind."

Missouri is one of more than 20 states participating in a disability savings program, made possible by the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. More than 200 MO ABLE savings accounts have been set up since the program's inception, according to the treasurer's office. The program in Missouri is partnering with similar efforts in Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and Vermont to share resources.

As a state senator, Schmitt sponsored legislation in 2015 establish the MO ABLE program. He also was part of a measure in 2010 to require insurance companies to cover health care needs for children with autism spectrum disorders.

There are approximately 800,000 Missourians who live with a disability, according to the treasurer, and measures such as the MO ABLE program bring light to the cultural shift in which people are becoming more inclusionary of individuals with disabilities.

"Years ago individuals were sent somewhere," he said. "Now whether it's community living or the support or hiring processes, culturally we're headed in the right direction. It really is about empowering people individually." 

>> Mo ABLE program

To learn more about MO ABLE, including eligibility requirements, visit www.moable.com

MO ABLE also has a Facebook page and is on Twitter @MissouriABLE 

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