McRae: ABLE to Save
According to the National Disability Institute, about one in four working-age people with disabilities live in poverty compared to one in 10 of their non-disabled counterparts. If you dig into the numbers a bit, it’s no surprise as to why. Housing typically costs more than 50 percent of their income, compared to an average of just 16 percent in the non-disabled community. Meanwhile, earnings tend to be lower, with more than half of Americans with disabilities earning less than $25,000 annually. What’s more, for decades, their ability to save anything for a rainy day was extremely limited.
In fact, prior to 2014, just $2,000 in savings could disqualify someone from receiving other necessary support, such as healthcare and housing assistance. The inability to create a savings safety net made poverty more likely and financial stability nearly impossible for many.
In December 2014, however, things changed. Congress passed the ABLE Act, giving thousands of Mississippi families a path to greater financial stability.
Today, those with disabilities and their families can set up an ABLE account, which allows them to save money without jeopardizing necessary benefits. These are tax-advantaged accounts that can be used to pay for disability-related expenses, including education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management, administrative services, and more.
To be eligible for an ABLE account, the disability’s onset must have occurred before the beneficiary turned 26 years old. If you or your loved one meet that criteria and receive SSI or SSDI benefits, you are automatically eligible to open an ABLE account. Even if you don’t meet those criteria, you might still be eligible, but additional paperwork will be necessary before enrolling.
Once you’ve opened an ABLE account, the beneficiary, as well as their family and friends, can contribute to it. Then, families or the beneficiaries themselves get to choose how the money is invested, giving you the opportunity to grow your savings over time.
The ABLE program, however, is still new and many families are unsure where to begin. To help, Mississippi ABLE is hosting a town hall meeting to discuss the program on May 19 at 5:30PM. To join in person, simply meet at the Getwell Church Family Life Center (7875 Getwell Road) in Southhaven. To find information about joining via Zoom, visit the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Service’s Facebook Page at Facebook.com/MSDeptOfRehab. Please mark your calendars now to make sure you don’t miss this important event!
The State Treasury is grateful to assist in expanding Mississippi’s understanding of this critical program as well. If you believe an ABLE account would benefit you or a family member, you are welcome to call my office at any time at (601) 359-3600. We are ready to help more Mississippians become ABLE to save.