New program in Missouri 'game changer' for people with disabilities

(Credit: KMOV)

This week, Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt kicked off the second phase of MO ABLE, a program designed to empower people with disabilities and help them and their families save money. He launched a statewide coalition to promote the program.

Schmitt’s team is championing the implementation of the ABLE Act, which stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience. It allows people with disabilities or their families to contribute up to $14,000 a month into a special, tax-free, savings account. That money can be used for disability-related expenses, like housing, transportation, employment training, or technology that can assist them. Many people compare it to a college savings account. It is a significant change from the previous standard when people could only have $2,000 in their bank account before they would start to become ineligible for state and federal benefits.

“This is the most significant policy development for people with disabilities since the Americans with Disability Act passed back in 1990,” said Schmitt.

While Congress passed the ABLE Act a couple years ago, Missouri’s state-run program just went live in April.

“This is something that is going to last for generations. We’re taking the long view. We are doing it right,” said Schmitt.

He said hundreds of families have already signed up.

“This is the kind of program that makes people less dependent on government over time which is important because what we know, every individual, regardless or their abilities or disabilities has value and are important members of our society. As a state, to acknowledge the individual and promote a program like this, which financially empowers individuals and strengthens families, is a very, very important cause,” said Schmitt.

It’s also a deeply personal cause for Schmitt, whose son has disabilities.

“Steven is 12 and nonverbal. He is on the Autism spectrum. He has epilepsy. He’s had a lot of challenges in his 12 years. But as parents it’s taught us a lot, given us perspective we wouldn’t have otherwise had,” said Schmitt.

Schmitt knows how many other families can relate and is working on getting the word out about this new resource available to them in Missouri.

“This week we launched our disability savings coalition. We are partnering with dozens of non-profits and boards across the state to get the word out. That’s our biggest issue here. Our goal is for Missouri to be the number one state, for the MO ABLE program to be the best in the country with the lowest costs and highest quality plan,” said Schmitt.

He feels like that is already happening, with MO ABLE being looked at nationally as a model of how to implement the ABLE act.

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

News 4 Anchor/Reporter

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