After Congress passed the bill allowing adults with disabilities to have special saving accounts, it was hailed by supporters as the most significant piece of legislation to affect the disabled since the Americans with Disabilities Act was approved a quarter of a century ago.
Given the state of dysfunction in Washington, it took eight years to get the bill through Congress, but when it finally won approval it had overwhelming bipartisan support, including all the members of Nebraska’s delegation.
Now it’s up to the Nebraska Legislature to follow through to make sure that Nebraskans can take advantage of the opportunity by passing LB591, introduced by Kate Bolz of Lincoln.
Currently, adults with disabilities who receive help from the government are not allowed to have more than $2,000 in savings, or they lose their benefits.
A story by the Journal Star’s Zach Pluhacek told how the limit made life difficult for Spencer Mitchell of Lincoln.
Mitchell works two jobs, which pay enough for him to cover the rent on a one-bedroom apartment, utilities, telephone and groceries with a little left over that he could save if it were permitted.
His benefits include health coverage through Medicaid and a state-assigned staff person who checks in twice a week to help out with any problems.
Imagine the problems that would ensue if Mitchell’s savings account ever climbed past $2,000. It’s no wonder that he “obsesses and obsesses and obsesses” about his savings, as his mother put it.
Bolz’s bill would allow Mitchell, his family and friends to put up to $100,000 in a special savings account similar to health savings accounts or 529 college savings plans, which have tax advantages. Annual contributions to the ABLE (Achieving Better Life Experiences) account are limited to the gift tax exemption, currently $14,000.
The money can be used for things such as housing, health care, education, transportation and assistive technology such as a scooter or a hearing aid.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg, whose office would oversee the ABLE accounts, supports the legislation. He estimated that it would cost about $270,000 to set it up.
The bill made it out of committee last month. It’s been prioritized by Speaker Galen Hadley, but it has not yet received a vote.
The legislation has a long history; it's has been thoroughly vetted. It’s benefits are tangible and obvious. It ought to become law.