LITTLE ROCK- Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, HB 1239, to allow families the opportunity to set up tax-exempt savings accounts for disability-related expenses. The bill was signed at a ceremony during the third annual Day at the Capitol for Individuals with Disabilities and during World Autism Awareness Month.
“This is a really important piece of legislation,” Hutchinson said. “I think it will make a great difference in the lives of individuals.”
The accounts, modeled after 529 college savings plans, require state level implementation after ABLE was enacted at the federal level last year. The Arkansas ABLE legislation was sponsored by Rep. Julia Mayberry, R-Hensley.
“This will enable (people with disabilities) to save money for education, transportation, medical needs that are not met by other sources, technology — devices that they can use to assist them,” Mayberry said.
Enacted late last year, the federal ABLE Act amended federal law to disregard ABLE account funds for means-tested federal programs such as SSI and Medicaid, which cap (usually at $2,000) the amount an individual with a disability may save.
“The ABLE program is a major step forward in planning for the future for those with autism and was made possible by the hard work of grassroots advocates and elected officials working together for families in the state,” said Stuart Spielman, Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel at Autism Speaks.
Arkansas joins Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia in the growing list of states which have enacted similar programs. ABLE legislation is currently awaiting signature in Kansas and legislation is pending in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Washington.