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Treasurer touts program for those with disabilities
Jacksonville Journal-Courier - 9/12/2018
Sept. 12--In a brief visit to the Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living, state Treasurer Michael Frerichs discussed a new savings program for those with disabilities and brainstormed ways he could get the message to those eligible.
JACIL Executive Director Becky McGinnis said Frerichs toured the facility Monday and then discussed ways in which he and his staff could effectively get the word out about ABLE, or Achieving a Better Life Experience, accounts. The accounts are a boon to those with disabilities that also receive Supplemental Security Income, which prohibits recipients from possessing over $2,000 in personal assets.
"SSI is not easy to get and once you've gotten it you don't want to do anything to jeopardize that," McGinnis said. "People may want to set aside money for disability-related expenses which could be used for things like purchasing a car with a lift. If you don't have a car with a lift and you're only allowed to save up $2,000, that can be a difficult purchase."
Frerichs pointed out that another issue the $2,000 limit places on those with SSI is that parents can't simply give their children savings accounts.
"They can't include them in their will or they'll lose their benefits," Frerichs said. "This will allow a family to save up to $100,000 in an ABLE account without losing their benefits."
The ABLE account program launched early last year and is part of a coalition between Illinois and 13 other states to allow people with a disability to open tax-deferred investment accounts, similar to the 529 college savings plan. Those funds are not taxed when spent on disability expenses such as medical costs or housing.
The accounts are limited at $100,000 due to federal limits, but the account has no bearing on an individual's Medicare or SSI benefits.
In order to qualify for the accounts, the beneficiary of the account must have developed their disability before age 26 and if they are receiving SSI or Social Security Disability they are eligible to open the account. Those not receiving benefits can still open an account if they are certified by their doctor.
"This is a time where Illinois saw an opportunity and took advantage of it," McGinnis said. "Illinois has shown some leadership on this and it is a useful tool."
McGinnis said that JACIL hopes to work with the Treasurer to potentially facilitate some informational programs to help make people who might benefit from ABLE aware of the program.
Frerichs said that he believes this savings program to be one of the best of its kind in the country and that he hopes anyone who might benefit from it seize the opportunity to open an account.
"People have to be made aware of it," Frerichs said.
Nick Draper can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @nick_draper.
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