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The United States of ABLE: Majority of Congress Signs On to Bill

WASHINGTON (November 20, 2013) -- With Congress in a state of perpetual gridlock, one piece of legislation has quietly attracted majority support from both parties, in both houses of Congress and across all geographic regions. The bill is the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and it would directly benefit the autism community.

The House version of the bill (HR.647) is now co-sponsored by 310 of the 435 members of the House [see graphic below]; the Senate version (S.313) yesterday broke the halfway mark as the 51st Senator signed on as a cosponsor. A number of lawmakers pledged to sign on as cosponsors when they met with advocates during last week's Autism Speaks to Washington summit. See the full list here.

Sponsored by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) in the House and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate, ABLE would allow the creation of tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities, including autism. The savings could be used for education, housing, transportation and related expenses. ABLE Accounts would resemble existing 529 college savings plans and would supplement, not replace, benefits provided through Medicaid, private insurance or employment.

“In the next 10 years, a half-million children with autism will age into adulthood," said Stuart Spielman, senior policy advisor and counsel for Autism Speaks. "The staggering level of housing, transportation, and other support services that will be required for this population demand common sense solutions such as ABLE.”

Autism Speaks is part of a coalition of 50 national and regional disability advocacy groups that has pressed for enactment of ABLE. Among the other groups are the National Down Syndrome Society and The Arc.

“Support for tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities stands at its highest level ever - testament to the tireless dedication of  those who believe that ALL Americans deserve equality when it comes to financial planning tools," said Crenshaw, who chairs the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee. "It’s time to pass this legislation and create a brighter future for those in need.”

Casey said, "The ABLE Act is commonsense bipartisan legislation that will help make it easier for those families to save for their children’s future care, and we should pass it immediately.  Individuals with disabilities and their families face challenges many of us can’t even begin to imagine. They deserve some assurance that they will be able to adequately plan for expenses.”

310 of 435 House Representatives Signed On To ABLE