Paraquad commends Gov. Jay Nixon on signing the Missouri Achieving a Better Life (ABLE) Act into law. Nixon’s signature on Monday represents an important step toward increasing economic self-sufficiency and upward mobility for some Missourians with disabilities.
“The ABLE Act is a historic piece of legislation. We’ve ended the forced impoverishment of some people with disabilities. The ABLE Act ensures people who acquired a disability prior to the age of 26 and their families are able to save for necessities without negatively impacting access to benefits,” said Cathy Brown, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Paraquad.
Eligible individuals and their families can establish tax-advantaged savings accounts that will not affect their eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other public benefits. Funds in ABLE accounts can be used to pay for qualified disability expenses such as housing, transportation, education, assistive technology, employment training and support, health care expenses and personal support services.
“People with disabilities are twice as likely as any other minority group to live in poverty. It’s expensive to have a disability. The leadership of Sen. Eric Schmitt, who championed the bill in the Missouri Legislature, and Gov. Nixon’s signature represent two missing puzzle pieces finally being in place,” Brown said.
Marcos Rendon, a Paraquad participant who has had a disability his entire life, is a high school student preparing to transition to college and/or training. He is also a recipient of a sizable trust fund around his disability.
“The ABLE account would provide a way for me to save for things I might need in the future,” Rendon said.
For Rendon, establishing a savings account is especially important in case his trust becomes depleted, which is possible considering that the cost of power wheelchairs can range between $16,000 and $36,000.
Paraquad encourages legislators to leverage the momentum of the Missouri ABLE Act and continue to address other key economic issues for the disability community, including increasing the Medicaid asset limit, which hasn’t been raised for nearly 50 years.
“With the ABLE Act, we’ve taken a huge step toward the continued independence of people with disabilities,” Brown said. “But we need to allow people with disabilities to keep more of their own money to meet their own expenses instead of ‘spending down’ month after month to 85 percent of the federal poverty level. We need to create a pathway to economic independence for all people with disabilities.”
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Founded in 1970, Paraquad is the leading disability services provider in the St. Louis region. One of the oldest Centers for Independent Living in the country, Paraquad’s mission is to empower people with disabilities to increase their independence through choice and opportunity. A key focus is to make St. Louis more accessible for all people by advocating, building awareness and delivering comprehensive services.
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