ABLE Act

Many self-advocates and family-members have questions about the ABLE Act- legislation that will create new savings plans for people with disabilities. Here is a quick background on the ABLE Act, how it will affect North Carolinians with disabilities, and a timeline for the full roll out in NC.

 

The short story is this:

  • The ABLE Act is federal law, and that is the framework for these savings accounts.
  • Each state needs to pass legislation to create the vehicle for ABLE accounts to be created and administered.  ABLE legislation was signed in to law in North Carolina on August 11, 2015.
  • Unfortunately, while both the initial Senate and House budgets included funding for the Treasurer’s office to create and manage of ABLE accounts, the Treasurer’s office can not hire ABLE designated staff until the budget is signed and funds are released.
  • The Treasurer’s office has created an ABLE Act team and are working on responding to proposed rules that the IRS released last month. Additional designated ABLE staff will be added after the state budget is signed.
  • The Arc of NC will provide updated information on how to access ABLE 529 accounts, including details on how you will be able to establish one of these accounts for yourself or family member, as it becomes available.
     

Background

The Stephen Beck, Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into law on December 19, 2014 after many years of advocacy and bipartisan work in both the House and Senate. The Arc of the United States has released two fact sheets about the new law – a summary and a more in-depth look at the law – to educate the disability community about how this law will work.

The law allows eligible individuals with disabilities the ability to establish “ABLE accounts” for qualified beneficiaries that resemble qualified tuition programs, often called “529 accounts.” The new ABLE accounts will allow more individual choice and control over spending on qualified disability expenses and limited investment decisions, while protecting eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other important federal benefits for people with disabilities, with certain restrictions. Yearly contributions of up to $14,000 are tax free.
 

What’s happening in NC

While the federal law set the framework, the NC General Assembly must create the vehicle for accounts to be made and administered at the state level.  In late March, Senators Barringer, Hise, and Apodaca introduced Senate Bill 367 (corresponding House Bill 556 introduced by Representatives Avila, Lambeth, Hanes, and Meyer).  House Bill 556 passed the NC House and Senate with unanimous support and was signed into law by Governor McCrory on August 11, 2015.

The law tasks the office of the state Treasurer with creating and managing ABLE 529 accounts. However, before the Treasurer’s office can hire the staff needed for this task, the legislature must complete their two year budget and the Governor must sign it into law.

Once the state budget is passed and the Treasurer’s office sets up the savings vehicle, North Carolinians will have access to ABLE Accounts.  When that occurs, The Arc of North Carolina will send out additional how-to information.
 

How We Got Here

The ABLE Act’s success stems not only from the opportunities it affords qualifying individuals with disabilities, but also the unprecedented, homegrown bipartisan and bicameral support it has received both in Congress and here in the North Carolina General Assembly. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) was a driving force in bringing ABLE across the finish line as one of the most bipartisan bills in Congress. Similarly members of both parties in the NC General Assembly see ABLE accounts as a key component in improving the lives of many North Carolinians with disabilities.  

Advocates kept educating and using their voices over several years, and together they made it happen!

The Arc Continue to Work Behind the Scenes

The Arc of NC  is working with the NC Treasurer's office to create a joint reply regarding the IRS proposed rules for the ABLE programs. Some of the rules around monthly reporting of qualified expenses and receiving a certification of disability to qualify for the accounts would be burdensome to individuals with disabilities and their families.

Resources

 
Governor McCrory signs House Bill 556, the ABLE Act
 
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Governor McCrory and Richard Burr speak at the bill signing
 
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The Arc of NC's John Nash, Lisa Poteat, and Erika Hagensen before the signing