JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – Congressman Ander Crenshaw, author of the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), helped celebrate the launch of Florida’s ABLE United program at a ceremony at The Arc Jacksonville Village on Wednesday evening (7/27). ABLE United, pursuant to the federal ABLE Act, allows Florida residents with disabilities to enroll in tax-free savings accounts to use for qualified expenses without jeopardizing existing government benefits.
Together with officials from the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), the Down Syndrome Society of Jacksonville (DSAJ), and The Arc Jacksonville Village, Crenshaw recognized the importance of ABLE United. During the ceremony at The Arc, a recently-opened community that promotes independent living for those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the DSAJ recognized Crenshaw for his leadership on ABLE. He thanked DSAJ Executive Director Debbie Revels, NDSS President Sara Weir, The Arc Jacksonville President and CEO Jim Whittaker and others for their work in advancing the ABLE Act and provided the following comments following the event:
“Great achievements result from teamwork with each player keeping the finish in sight. The ABLE team applied that philosophy for eight years, never taking its eyes off the goal-line. We scored our historic victory on December 19, 2014, the date ABLE became law of the land, and we opened the door to a brighter future for millions living with disabilities. Now, we bring that triumph home to Florida as we celebrate ABLE United, the program that authorizes the establishment of our ground-breaking opportunity at the state level.
“ABLE United means folks right here at The Arc Jacksonville Village, a first-class community that promotes inclusion, engagement, and independent living, are able to enroll in tax-free savings accounts. They and those who live with Down Syndrome, autism, and other disabilities now have access to a common-sense financial planning tool - a tax-free savings account - not previously available to them. Like other Americans who use such a tool to save for college, individuals with disabilities can map out their future. I have no doubt that state-by-state, ABLE accounts will be available to everyone who needs them. That’s what I call a solid win, made possible through partnership. ”
BACKGROUND: Officially titled The Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014, in honor of its long-time champion who passed away unexpectedly on December 8, 2014, the law marks the first major legislative reform to impact people with disabilities since the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Beck, of Burke, VA, had advocated for the reform early on. His young daughter Natalie was born with Down syndrome.
The ABLE Act amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986 to create tax-free savings accounts for qualified expenses. Benefits provided through private insurance, the Medicaid program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources would be supplemented, but not supplanted by the legislation. The bill passed the House on December 3, 2014 by a vote of 404-17 and was included Tax Extenders legislation which passed the Senate by a vote of 76 – 16. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law on Friday afternoon, December 19, 2014.
Editor’s Note: Go to www.crenshaw.house.gov for more information about the history of the ABLE Act.