One year ago this month, advocates across the country celebrated a victory eight years in the making when President Obama signed the Stephen Beck, Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. The ABLE Act is built on the foundation of the current 529 education savings plans that help families save for college. In the case of ABLE, families now have a tax‐deferred savings vehicle to save for the care of people with disabilities. The National Disability Institute estimates there are 58 million individuals with disabilities in the United States. Many of these individuals will qualify for ABLE accounts.
This landmark achievement, which was made possible by the hard work of our champions on Capitol Hill and dedicated grassroots networks across the country, raised a question: how quickly would states act to make ABLE programs available?
Virginia became the first state to enact an ABLE program this year when Governor Terry McAuliffe signed legislation this spring. By enacting ABLE, Virginia honored the vision and good work of the late Stephen Beck, Jr., a resident of Virginia, the parent of a child with Down syndrome and a champion for the entire disability community.
Many more states have followed. 31 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation authorizing ABLE programs. The ABLE states are as diverse as Rhode Island and Texas. They are small states and big states, red states and blue states, with additional states expected to become ABLE states in the coming months.
Learn more: 10 Things to know about the ABLE Act
In June, Autism Speaks and advocates from across the country honored the work of ABLE champions and allies including, Senators Bob Casey and Richard Burr, Representatives Ander Crenshaw, Pete Sessions, and Chris Van Hollen for their work on ABLE at the federal level. The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) was also honored for their partnership in passing the federal legislation and enactment of ABLE programs across the country to set up tax-exempt 529A savings accounts for disability-related expenses.(ABOVE Senators Burr and Casey offer remarks on the passage fo the ABLE Act.)
In large part due to the leadership of Representative Crenshaw, Sessions, and Van Hollen, ABLE cleared the House on a 404-17 vote.(ABOVE Representative Sessions offers remarks on the passage of the ABLE Act) (ABOVE Stuart Spielman, senior policy advisory and counsel of Autism Speaks presents an award to Sara Hart Weir, president of the National Down Syndrome Society for their work to pass the ABLE Act.)
The momentum in 2015 has been impressive, but there is still work to be done. Legislators across the country will need to hear from constituents in 2016 who believe individuals with disabilities and their families deserve this opportunity to plan for the future.
Make sure that you register with Autism Votes. We will alert you with ways to take action to bring ABLE in your state. If ABLE has already passed in your state, take a moment to send an email thanking your governor.
So far, ABLE laws authorizing a state ABLE program have been enacted in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
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