MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Mississippians with disabilities now have a way to save money without fear of losing their public benefits. The Mississippi ABLE Program offers individuals with disabilities the opportunity to “Achieve a Better Life Experience.”
ABLE accounts are savings accounts for qualified individuals with disabilities. Money put into the account is not counted against any public benefits and may provide tax advantages.
Accounts like these will help people like Larando Metts, who is legally blind and on disability. Metts works at Ability Works, a program run by the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. He has a solid job but he’s been capped at how much of his earnings he’s able to save.
“If you’re on disability, you’re only allowed, through social security, to save $2,000," he explained. "After $2,000, you’re penalized. Your benefits will be decreased.”
With the new ABLE program, that will stop, allowing people on disabilities to be able to save money.
“ABLE is a ground-breaking program for individuals with disabilities,” said Rick Courtney, chairman of the Mississippi ABLE Board. “Those who receive benefits have always been told that they couldn’t save money without jeopardizing their benefits. ABLE changes the rules. This is really significant on so many levels, but especially for capable adults with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities who want to save for their children’s future like other parents."
The program will allow people on disability to set up an ABLE account, which can be either a checking or savings account. Up to $100,000 a year can be saved in the ABLE account without the person being penalized.
“This is a program that helps individuals save for the future so they have the opportunity to put that money into an investment account and hold it there and not be concerned about, ‘Is this going to affect my Medicaid, or is this going to affect my SNAP or Social Security/disability or anything like that’" said Chris Howard, executive director of the Department of Rehabilitation Services. "That’s huge across the state.”
That money is also not taxable if it’s being used for disability-related expenses, which encompass a wide variety of expenditures.
“You’re talking about assistive technology, tuition, if a person has a disability and wants to go back to school," explained Howard. "Say they needed a car, you know, housing is also allowable, utilities. So anything related to a person’s disability to help them live independently or get to and from work. It’s pretty wide, the definition of what that money can be used for.”
To qualify for the ABLE program, an individual must have acquired their disability before reaching the age of 26. Contributions can be made to the account by anyone and may qualify for a state income tax deduction. Income earned in the accounts is not taxed if spent on qualified disability-related expenses. The accounts can be used for daily transactions or long-term savings.
“ABLE Accounts are all about independence,” said Lynn Fitch, Mississippi State Treasurer and ABLE Board Member. “They promote saving for a life of independence that many people with disabilities and their families can’t afford. And that is good, not only for Mississippians with disabilities but, for all of Mississippi.”
People can now set up an ABLE account online. Applications are also available on the website which can be printed and mailed in. The fee to maintain a Mississippi ABLE account is $3.75 a month. For more information, including how to set one up, click HERE or call 1-888-609-3469.