NC ABLE Program Taking Shape
What would life be like if you were denied the financial freedom to save your own money for things like unforeseen medical emergencies, unexpected health scares ̶ or even those necessary expenses of daily life? For decades, this has been the unfortunate reality for millions of people with disabilities. But that’s changing now.
In 2015, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the NC Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, and I was proud to sponsor this life-changing new law. The NC ABLE Program will provide people with disabilities the opportunity to save money in a special “ABLE account” for qualified disability expenses, similar to the type of tax-deferred accounts used today by families saving for their children’s college education.
Under the NC ABLE Act, people with disabilities can save up to $100,000 and still qualify for the vital programs and services that they may rely on for daily life – a major change in public policy that will bring more financial freedom to millions. ABLE accounts open the door for people with disabilities to access basic financial tools like savings and investment accounts that the rest of us take for granted.
Not everyone can open an ABLE account. These special ABLE accounts are for individuals who have a disability, and for whom the onset of that disability was prior to age 26. Parents or guardians of eligible individuals are permitted to open an account on behalf of their children or an eligible individual, as well. An eligible individual may open an ABLE account in any state. In this way, our NC ABLE accounts will be open to all eligible individuals across the country.
ABLE account owners may spend their money on “qualified disability expenses” (QDEs) that are outlined under the law. Rules spell out what’s considered a QDE, but the list is long and includes things like transportation costs, education, employment training, and more.
I first learned about the need for this bill from local constituents who knew this was available in other states. Families explained to me that they could put aside savings for their kids who were going to head to college, but they couldn’t do the same for a child who was never going to go to college but would need disability care long after that age and even after the parents are gone.
Seeing this bill signed into law was one of my proudest accomplishments of 2015. The bill was sponsored by two Democrats and two Republicans and received unanimous support in both the House and Senate. It’s great to find something in politics that unites rather than divides.
The NC Department of State Treasurer (NCDST) has begun working with several advocacy groups to ensure this is a meaningful program and of benefit to some of our most under-served populations. The goal is to begin offering NC ABLE accounts in the 4th Quarter of 2016.
Visit the Department of State Treasurer website at www.NCTreasurer.com, email ncABLE@nctreasurer.com, or call Mary Buonfiglio, Deputy Director, Retirement Services Division, 919-814-4176, or Catherine Jarboe, Communications Officer,919-814-3827, for more information.
Graig Meyer is the State Representative for House District 50, covering portions of Orange and Durham Counties. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.