(WASHINGTON, DC) -- The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the ABLE Act 404-17 allowing tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and sent the bill to the Senate for final Congressional action. The legislation has been before Congress in various forms for eight years and has been endorsed by dozens of national disability organizations, including Autism Speaks and the National Down Syndrome Society.
Sponsored by Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) [pictured left] and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the bill attracted 380 House co-sponsors; the Senate version, sponsored by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), drew 74 co-sponsors.
“Step-by-step with focus and determination, the ABLE act has moved across the House finish line," said Crenshaw. "I couldn’t be prouder or more thankful for the support that this landmark legislation has earned, from Autism Speaks and so many other disability advocacy organizations. Plain and simple, this is about leveling the playing field for individuals with disabilities and opening the door to a brighter future for millions of Americans, and teamwork made the difference in getting it done.”
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"Autism Speaks thanks Representative Crenshaw for never giving up the fight for ABLE, which means so much to so many in the disabilities community," said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. "Now, millions of families will have the opportunity to save money for the disability needs of their children throughout their lifetime.
"We commend the House for its vote and extend special thanks to Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for ensuring this bill was a priority in the short time remaining in this Congress," she added. "This long journey would not have been completed without the dedicated support of Reps. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA), Steve Scalise (R-LA), Dave Camp (R-MI), Sandy Levin (D-MI) and Pete Sessions (R-TX)."
ABLE, or the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, would amend the tax code to allow tax-free savings accounts to help finance disability-related needs. They would be similar to Section 529 college savings accounts and would eliminate, for ABLE accounts, the current $2,000 cap on savings for individuals with disabilities.
Under current law, people with disabilities who save more than $2,000 risk the loss of their Social Security, Medicaid and other benefits. Funds deposited in ABLE accounts would have to be used exclusively for disability-related expenses.
"Passage of the ABLE Act shows what’s possible when Democrats and Republicans work together to find common ground to improve people’s lives, and I’m proud to be part of the bipartisan effort to get this initiative over the finish line," said Van Hollen. "But most of all, today’s action in the House is a testament to the tireless advocacy of families across the country who told their stories and never gave up.”
During the House floor debate, Crenshaw said, "Most of us know someone with a severe disability, it might be Down Syndrome, it might be autism, but sometimes it's hard for us to understand the difficulties that they have to go through along with their families.
"They face challenges that we can hardly even imagine sometimes and the ABLE Act tries to remedy that situation, to bring justice, to bring peace of mind to millions of American families who have to live with disabilities every day," he added.