The Georgia legislature has passed the Achieving A Better Life Act (ABLE), HB 768, with unanimous support and the bill is now headed to Governor Nathan Deal for his signature.
The Georgia legislation was sponsored by Georgia State Representatives Lee Hawkins, Wendell Willard, Virgil Fludd, Jan Jones, Scot Turner, and Terry England and follows enactment by the federal government of the Stephen Beck, Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014.
"HB 768 represents one of the most comprehensive bills in the nation which addresses the issue of accumulating savings without losing disability income," said Representative Hawkins. "This required a team effort and I had the very best of teams to accomplish this goal."
Modeled after college savings accounts, ABLE accounts will enable people with autism and their families to save for housing, education, transportation, medical and other expenses if related to their disability. Assets in ABLE accounts will generally be disregarded by means-tested federal programs like Medicaid.
“We are incredibly grateful for the unanimous approval of ABLE in the Georgia legislature and hope that Governor Deal will promptly approve ABLE legislation for families with disabilities across the state to help them prepare for their financial futures,” said Stuart Spielman, senior policy advisor and counsel at Autism Speaks. “This victory would not have been possible without the coalition of lawmakers and grassroots advocates from across the state working side-by-side.”
ABLE laws have been enacted in the District of Columbia and the following 37 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The victory in Georgia comes after Congress introduced legislation to expand the ABLE program for individuals with autism and other disabilities last week. The package includes the ABLE to Work Act, the ABLE Financial Planning Act and the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. Advocates applauded the proposed enhancements, which would increase contribution limits, allow rollovers to and from college savings accounts, and expand eligibility.