JEFFERSON CITY, Mo — Hundreds of Missourians with disabilities and their families have accumulated a combined total of over $2.2 million in savings for their long-term needs through the MO ABLE program since it was launched by State Treasurer Eric Schmitt one year ago this week.
MO ABLE empowers people with disabilities to save and invest through tax-free savings accounts without losing eligibility for federal programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The program is made possible by the Missouri Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2015 – legislation championed by Treasurer Schmitt during his time in the Missouri State Senate.
“MO ABLE has made a profound difference in the lives of Missourians with disabilities and their families by opening new doors to financial security,” Schmitt said. “My son, Stephen, faces the challenge of living with several disabilities, so I know firsthand the impact this program can have on those who face similar struggles. MO ABLE is about providing financial empowerment and peace of mind to some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Before the launch of MO ABLE, individuals with disabilities were only allowed a maximum of $2,000 in savings before losing access to certain benefits and services. This restriction left families without the flexibility they needed to make smart financial decisions when it came to the long-term care of their loved ones.
“One big concern I have had with my son who has disabilities is his financial security, especially once my husband and I have passed away,” said Robyn Schelp of Columbia, who has a MO ABLE account for her son. “Thanks to the MO ABLE account, he will have a chance to have financial security and independence while still getting the services he needs to be successful as an adult with disabilities.”
MO ABLE has provided families of individuals with disabilities significant peace of mind by giving them a viable option for ensuring their needs are taken care of long after their guardians have passed.
“It has given me confidence in knowing that my two kids with Down Syndrome can save for their futures,” said Regina Bradley, a MO ABLE program participant who lives in Buffalo. “It will allow them to have a comfortable life and reliable transportation when they are ready to be independent.”
Even with MO ABLE’s emergence as one of the top performing state-based plans in the nation, Treasurer Schmitt has continued working toward improving the program. Last year, he launched the MO ABLE Disability Savings Coalition, consisting of government entities, resource centers and advocacy organizations, to raise awareness of the program. The Coalition has served as an important resource for gathering feedback about the functionality of the program and generating ideas for future policy changes.
Schmitt joined forces with Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs last year to call on federal lawmakers to increase the amount of money earned at a job that an individual with a disability can save and invest in an ABLE account. Those changes, known as ABLE to Work, were passed by Congress in December as part of the federal tax reform package.
Schmitt has also partnered with State Senator Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) and State Representative Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City) to introduce legislation that would improve Missouri’s program by allowing for greater flexibility between MOST 529 plans and MO ABLE accounts.
“We’re proud to have one of the lowest cost and highest quality ABLE programs in the nation, but our work hasn’t stopped there,” Schmitt said. “We are continually looking for ways to improve, strengthen and expand MO ABLE so that it can be as useful as possible to those who choose to participate.”
Missourians who contribute to MO ABLE accounts are eligible for a tax deduction of up to $8,000 or $16,000 if married and filing jointly. Earnings in MO ABLE accounts are not subject to income tax, so long as funds are spent on qualified disability expenses.
Eligible individuals can learn more and sign up for an account at www.moable.com. An initial contribution of at least $50 is required in order to set up an account.