One challenge for families of individuals with disabilities is helping their loved ones achieve independent living. This is of particular concern for parents who want to ensure their children are able to maintain a high standard of living as those parents age and are less able to help.

A new law will smooth the path toward reaching that goal by allowing individuals with disabilities and their families to save for the future.

The Mississippi ABLE program launched across the state this week, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Michaela Gibson Morris. The program creates a special savings program, fixing a flaw that made it difficult for individuals with disabilities to create a financial cushion.

Prior to the program’s creation, individuals with savings of more than $2,000 would lose their eligibility for Social Security, while those with more than $4,000 were ineligible for Medicaid – two public benefits that are a lifeline for people with disabilities. Similar to a 529 education savings account, the ABLE account will allow people with disabilities and their families to set aside funds for the future without jeopardizing Social Security and Medicaid benefits. The funds can grow tax-free as long as they are used for disability-related expenses.

“There’s so many parents and grandparents who feel they can’t help a person with disabilities because they risk their benefits being cut off,” said Mississippi ABLE board chairman Rick Courtney, who is an attorney who focuses on special needs law and whose daughter has a disability.

Congress passed the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) act in 2014, paving the way for the special savings account. State lawmakers passed legislation in 2017 that brought the program to Mississippi, creating a board that worked to establish the program launched this week.

Annual contributions are capped at $15,000, and there are limits on how large the fund can grow. Unlike a retirement account, savings can be accessed immediately to be spent on qualified expenses, such as assistive technology, tuition and books for classes or training programs, transportation and housing. Older adults can sign up for the program, but they must have become disabled before they turned 26.

The ability to save for the future is an important ingredient to allow individuals to stand on their own two feet as both they and their caregivers age. It allows them a cushion to cover large or unexpected expenses that may arise through the years. And it helps them achieve greater financial stability.

We believe the Mississippi ABLE program takes a big step forward in creating an environment that allows Mississippians with disabilities to thrive. We encourage anyone who is interested to visit or call (888) 609-3469 for more information. And we laud those with the vision to put it into place.

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