LEGISLATION HEADS TO PRESIDENT’S DESK TO ALLOW INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES TO WORK AND SAVE MONEY WITHOUT LOSING FEDERAL BENEFITS
WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 16 –U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today voted for the ABLE Act, saying Senate passage of the legislation “brings us one step closer to removing federal barriers to jobs for nearly 9,500 individuals with disabilities in Knox County alone.”
The legislation, cosponsored by Alexander, passed the Senate today by a vote of 76 to 16 and now heads to the president’s desk for signature. Once signed into law, the ABLE Act could enable the more than 170,000 Tennesseans with disabilities to work and save money—without fear of losing federal benefits.
“The need for opportunities for citizens with disabilities is great in the area of Tennessee from which I come from—nearly 9,500 individuals in Knox County alone receive Supplemental Security Income,” said Alexander. “The ABLE Act would allow many of these individuals in Tennessee and other states to save money for the future without discouraging work. By removing federal barriers to employment and long-term supports, places like Knoxville’s Sertoma Center can serve more individuals with disabilities throughout East Tennessee.”
The ABLE Act, which passed today as part of the tax extenders legislation, was introduced by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bob Casey (R-Penn.) to change current law, which prohibits individuals with disabilities in most states from collecting Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid if they hold more than $2,000 in total assets. The ABLE Act allows individuals with disabilities to earn and save up to $100,000 in their ABLE accounts, removing disincentives to work and allowing them to pay for their own health care and other long-term supports. Family and friends of an individual with disabilities would also be allowed to contribute to an ABLE account on behalf of the individual.
At a September hearing, Alexander introduced Tennessee State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) as a witness to discuss her work serving more than 100 individuals with disabilities at Knoxville’s Sertoma Center through vocational training, as well as employment, medical, case management, life skills, and residential services.
Alexander asked, “As you think about the Tennesseans with whom you work, what would be the effect of the ABLE Act on those individuals?”
Massey said, “I think it would be a huge impact on folks that have active families that could put money aside for their individual without fear of hurting their benefits. For a lot of these families, unfortunately, their dream is to live one day longer than their child because they’re not certain, even if they’ve got good providers, that the system is in place to take care of them. This would give them some peace of mind.”