Senators Commit to Passing ABLE Act

On September 19, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) released a joint statement updating the public on the Achieving a Better Life Experience (S.313 and H.R.647) ABLE Act status.  They indicated that the Senate has generated momentum and positive progress on passage of the bill.  The four Senators announced that as a result of bi-partisan collaboration, a policy agreement has been reached that will be the foundation for passing this legislation and obtaining Presidential signature in the lame duck Congressional session, which begins November 12, 2014.  Although no plan has been developed yet to pay for the $2.1 billion cost over 10 years, legislators are optimistic that agreement can be reached. The ABLE Act legislation, to allow people with disabilities to open tax-advantaged savings accounts, has been in development for eight years.

Achieving a Better Life Experience Act Act Clears House Ways and Means Committee

The House Ways and Means Committee marked up the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) last week.  The bill has significant bi-partisan support in the House and Senate and the lead sponsors are hopeful it can clear Congress in the early fall.  The ABLE Act would create tax-favored savings accounts for people with disabilities that would not count toward the $2,000 individual asset limits that apply to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs.  To address cost concerns, the scope of the bill was significantly narrowed from the legislation that was introduced in 2013.  Among the changes are a cap on contributions at $14,000 a year; requiring that individuals open accounts in their home state or with a state which contracts with their home state; limiting individuals to only one ABLE account; and limiting the availability of ABLE accounts to people who acquire the disability before age 26.  The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated the new bill to cost about $2 billion over 10 years and a new estimate by the Congressional Budget Office is expected soon.  During the mark-up, Chairman Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Levin (D-MI) discussed their commitment to work over the August recess to find “pay-fors” acceptable to both sides in order to allow the bill to move quickly following Labor Day.  For more information please see the materials provided by the JCT.

Senate Holds Hearing on the ABLE Act

Last week, the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight held a hearing, “Saving for an Uncertain Future: How the ABLE Act can Help People with Disabilities and their Families” on the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE Act) . The ABLE Act would create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities that would not count toward the $2,000 individual asset limits that apply to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs.

Reflecting on the need for an update in current tax-code policies, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA),whose son Cole has Down syndrome, offered this statement as a part of her testimony,”Our outdated laws encourage women and men with disabilities to resign themselves to a life of dependence by spending down their assets rather than saving them for future expenses.”

Other witnesses included Mr. Robert D’Amelio, volunteer advocate for the North Carolina chapter of Autism Speaks; Chase Alston Phillips, a financial advisor from northern Virginia; and Sara Wolf, self-advocate with Down Syndrome and board member of the National Down Syndrome Society.

Introduced in February 2013, the Senate version, S. 213, sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), has 74 co-sponsors; the House version, HR.647, sponsored by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), has 371 co-sponsors.   Visit the Committee website to view video of the hearing and written testimony.

 

 

ABLE Act Introduced in the 113th Congress

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities was introduced by Senators Robert Casey, Jr., (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) in the Senate, and Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Pete Sessions (R-TX) in the House of Representatives. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2013 (ABLE Act; S. 313, H.R. 647) would create ABLE savings accounts that allow people with disabilities to save for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation. ABLE accounts would be disregarded when determining eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, and other means-tested programs. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.

The legislation has 59 original House cosponsors and 16 original Senate cosponsors.

The Arc’s Joyce Lipman Speaks at Press Conference Supporting the ABLE Act

Last week, Joyce Lipman, former member of The Arc’s Board of Directors, joined Members of Congress and other disability rights advocates on Capitol Hill to support the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act during a press conference. Joyce brought her daughter Elise with her to the event and shared with the audience how the ABLE Act would help Elise lead a better life by providing her financial security. The bill would create a new planning tool for families that would allow individuals to save funds in new ABLE accounts without impacting their eligibility for means-tested federal programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), one of the lead co-sponsors of the bill, acknowledged Joyce and Elise, his constituents, as powerful advocates and voiced his support for the ABLE Act and his hope that the bill would pass before Congress adjourns. The ABLE Act has broad bipartisan support, with more than 230 House sponsors and 40 in the Senate.

ABLE Act Bill Introduced for 112th Congress

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities was introduced in the House by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), along with 26 additional House co-sponsors, and in the Senate by Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2011 (ABLE Act; S. 1872; H.R. 3423) would create ABLE savings accounts that allow people with disabilities to save for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation. ABLE accounts would be disregarded when determining eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, and other means-tested programs. The ABLE Act was unveiled at a press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol that featured The Arc’s CEO, Peter V. Berns, along with representatives of the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, and other national disability organizations. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.

Bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts signed into law; ABLE act not included

On December 17, President Obama signed H.R. 4853, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. Despite objections by some House Members to the estate tax provisions and the extension of the tax breaks to the highest income Americans, it cleared by a comfortable 277-148 vote margin. The compromise tax deal extends for two years the expiring tax cuts for all Americans and several expiring corporate and individual tax breaks. Other major provisions include a one year reauthorization of federal unemployment insurance benefits and a continuation of the emergency unemployment compensation benefits. The law also includes a payroll tax holiday during 2011 when individuals will pay two percentage points less on their Social Security payroll tax.

Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) offered the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2009 (S. 493) as an amendment to the tax bill. However, the effort was not successful for reasons unrelated to the merits of the proposal. As a result, the ABLE Act was not included in the final bill that was signed by President Obama. The ABLE Act would allow parents and individuals with disabilities to save money in special bank accounts (similar to educational savings accounts) without affecting federal benefits. The bill has significant bipartisan support in both the House (H.R. 1205) and Senate and is expected to receive attention early in the 112th Congress.