by RONNIE ELLIS, CNHI News Service –
FRANKFORT — Disabled persons dependent on benefit programs such as Medicaid and SSI have heretofore been unable to accrue savings for fear of losing their benefits.
But thanks to passage of a federal law – ABLE: Achieving a Better Life Experience – that has changed, and now disabled Kentuckians can begin savings through a program announced Tuesday by state Treasurer Allison Ball.
“For too long, many individuals in Kentucky with disabilities have been denied the opportunity to save and invest,” Ball said at a press conference in the state capitol. “With the launch of STABLE Kentucky, that has all changed.”
The federal law and Kentucky program will allow those diagnosed with their disability before their 26th birthday to establish accounts which aren’t subject to federal income tax so long as the funds are spent on qualified disabilities.
The savings accounts allow families to set aside money to use on qualified expenses such as education, healthcare, housing, and transportation. Earnings and distributions from a STABLE Kentucky Account for qualified disability expenses do not count as taxable income of the contributor or eligible beneficiary at the federal level.
The accounts are similar to typical bank accounts but are also investment accounts, similar to 529 college savings accounts or 401(k) retirement accounts. When a participant deposits money into their STABLE Kentucky Account, the money can be invested in different options chosen by the participants.
Kentucky is collaborating with the Ohio treasurer who established a similar program, Ball said, which allows Kentucky to offer it at effectively no cost to Kentucky taxpayers.
Amanda Stahl, who is wheelchair bound, said the account “will help me be more independent from my family and social security. It will allow me to help my family out when they need it instead of just their helping me out which is very empowering.”
The Kentucky legislation was sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder. An identical version was sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville.
Schroder said Tuesday he first learned of the problem faced by those receiving benefits for disabilities while running for the state Senate. But he was frustrated because it required federal legislation which finally passed in 2014.
“I’m delighted to witness the rollout of Stable Kentucky and I will continue to work with Treasurer Ball to assure ours is one of the best in the nation,” Schroder said.
Ashley Meier Barlow, a mother of an autistic son named Jack, said the account will allow her son to focus on his abilities rather than his disability.
She said his baptism money and money from birthday and other holiday gifts will go into his account so “he’ll be able to earn his own money and save that money.”
She said Jack has exceeded all his developmental goals and Wednesday will become the first autistic child to have a part in the Cincinnati ballet’s production of the Nutcracker Suite.
Ball said anyone seeking to establish an account or to learn more about the program may go to www.stablekentucky.com and follow the instructions.