Ohioans with disabilities and their families face many day-to-day challenges. Often they must choose between paying for disability-related expenses or paying for the things necessary to lead a healthy life. I believe that we must do all we can to remove the barriers placed on these families to save for expenses associated with caring for a loved one with a disability.
Previous law required that a disabled individual be financially underprivileged to be eligible for public assistance. These monetary caps have limited the ability of many individuals to save and pay for disability-related expenses such as transportation, employment training, legal fees, education and assistive technology. If they saved to provide for a more independent future, they would lose essential public assistance. This sent the wrong message to families struggling to care for a loved one and maintain a respectable quality of life.
This year, I joined colleagues in the Ohio House and Senate to sponsor legislation that will harmonize Ohio law with a new federal statute creating ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) savings accounts. For thousands of Ohioans living with disabilities, these accounts offer financial control and a higher quality of life. By removing disincentives to save for the future, ABLE allows individuals and their families to take control of their future. Ohio now joins seven other states that have already enacted ABLE legislation. Twenty-eight states have already begun the process toward adopting legislation.
ABLE will allow eligible individuals to establish federal tax-advantaged savings accounts similar to 529 education savings accounts. Any money saved in these accounts will not count against the disabled account owner's eligibility for public programs like Medicaid and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). Anyone can make a contribution to their account, which has a maximum contribution level of $394,000, as long as the funds go toward disability-related expenses like education and assistive technology.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has committed to establishing high standards for the institutions that manage ABLE accounts on behalf of account owners to ensure that these resources are best protected.
House Bill 155, which was signed into law by Governor Kasich in July, is geared toward reducing the heavy financial burden that disabled individuals and their families carry while also promoting self-determination. Families with children who have developmental and intellectual disabilities will be able to save for future expenses in the same way these families save for college for their other children.
Community advocates rallied around the legislation to help support the kind of change that transforms lives and I know it will make our state a better place to live for all Ohioans.
For more information on the ABLE legislation, go to https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-documents?id=GA131-HB-155.