Sen. Fran Millar

When an individual runs for public office, the person hopes to make a difference in people’s lives via public policy.

Over the years one of the biggest fears expressed to me by parents that have children with severe disabilities has been “What will happen to our child when we die?”

Hopefully the Georgia Achieving A Better Life Experience (ABLE) legislation gives all parties a little more security.

In December 2014 the ABLE Act became Federal law. The U.S. House of Representatives passed it 404-17 and the U.S. Senate passed it 76-16. This law allows states to set up a program for its citizens to establish ABLE accounts.

The purpose of an ABLE account is to allow individuals living with disabilities to establish tax free savings accounts. Total annual after tax contributions from family, friends or the person with the disability are capped at the annual federal gift tax limit (currently $14,000). Accounts may not exceed the 529 account limit (in Georgia $235,000 for college savings). Once an account exceeds $100,000, receipt of Social Security income benefits are suspended, but Medicaid eligibility remains intact.

Eligibility is limited to individuals with significant disabilities with the onset of the disability occurring before 26 years of age. If over the age of 26, a person must have documentation of the disability that indicates age of onset before the age of 26. If an individual meets the criteria and is also receiving benefits already under supplemental social security income or social security disability insurance, that individual is automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account.

An ABLE account may fund a variety of essential expenses for individuals including medical and dental care, education, community based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing and transportation.

An ABLE account eliminates barriers to work and savings by preventing dollars saved through ABLE accounts from counting against an individual’s eligibility for any federal benefits program.

In Georgia it is estimated that close to 300,000 individuals will be eligible. The National Disability Institute estimates 67,000 accounts will initially be established in Georgia. The earnings from these accounts are tax free and the loss of tax revenue is estimated at $10 million ($20 billion plus state budget).

The bill will begin in the Georgia House of Representatives since it has tax implications. Representative Scot Turner and Representative Lee Hawkins will introduce separate versions and I hope to carry whatever bill emerges from the House.

Please contact your representative and senator to encourage their support of this important legislation.

Hopefully we will bring a late Merry Christmas present to the disability community.

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