Lawmakers support savings plans for people with disabilities

[private]Legislation that would authorize tax-exempt savings accounts to help people with disabilities will get a serious push in next year’s General Assembly session, with several House and Senate members already lining up behind it.

“This is an issue we should have tackled earlier,” said Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville). “This year is going to be a good year.”

The lawmakers are proposing a measure called the “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act” that would use an existing federal program to set up tax-free savings accounts that could be used to help pay the education, housing and transportation expenses of people with disabilities.

The funds in the bank account would not make an individual ineligible for the supplementary security income (SSI) program, Medicaid, and other means-tested benefits.

The program is especially aimed at elderly parents who have children with disabilities and worry about how their offspring will be cared for after the parent has died.

“It will help people (with disabilities) lead meaningful lives in the community,” said Elizabeth Appley, an attorney and lobbyist for organizations such as All About Developmental Disabilities.

Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), who has prefiled an early version of the bill (HB 710), said 34 states already have enacted some form of the ABLE Act. He said there are an estimated 300,000 Georgia residents who would eligible to set up one of these savings plans.

A capitol news conference announcing the ABLE initiative included Turner, Hawkins, Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), and Sens. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), Renee Unterman (R-Buford), and P. K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville).

“It’s not perfect, but it is a start,” Millar said of the legislative proposal. “It’s a big help.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: ABLE Act , Fran Millar , Lee Hawkins , persons with disabilities , savings plan , Scot Turner