New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was in Dutchess County Tuesday, getting the word out about a new savings plan for individuals with disabilities.
DiNapoli talked about the savings plan called New York Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, with area residents and nonprofit and government employees. The audience was assembled at The Arc of Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, a nonprofit organization providing support to children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.
“NY ABLE helps families and individuals with disabilities set aside money to save for medical and other expenses and, this is what’s key, without the risk of losing the federal benefits that they count on,” DiNapoli says.
Benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.
“We wanted people to know the basics of the program and, more importantly, how to access more detailed information tailored to their own situation, because ultimately it’s a very personal choice. No one’s required to go into the program, but we make it easy. For as little as $25, you can open up an account,” says DiNapoli. “So we really just hope it will help more New Yorkers have a more secure financial future.”
NY ABLE accounts are also known as 529A accounts, modeled after the 529 College Savings Program. Contributions are not tax-deductible, and the annual contribution is capped at $14,000. The maximum account balance is $100,000. DiNapoli says the annual contribution cap will be increased to $15,000 in January.
Before introducing DiNapoli, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molarino spoke about the ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative he launched, prompted by his now 13-year-old daughter who is on the autism spectrum and lives with a seizure disorder.
“And that what ThinkDIFFERENTLY has become over the last four years since our launch is a real call to action to say to businesses and community organizations, not only in Dutchess but across the state, that we have to do more to break down the barriers and help individuals overcome obstacles that too often have those that are living with special needs feel as if, those living with developmental disabilities feel as, if they’re outside of the community, looking in.”
DiNapoli says the NY ABLE program fits well with Molinaro’s ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative. Anne Del Plato is director of New York’s 529 programs. She says, so far, 163 ABLE accounts have been opened since the program began in August. Del Plato hopes to see 1,000 accounts open at this time next year.
With the House and Senate having passed their versions of a tax overhaul plan, and now having to come together to reconcile differences, DiNapoli says there is a provision in one of the plans that could affect the NY ABLE program, but not negatively.
“We’ll have to see when the reconciliation happens whether or not there’s anything in there that affects the ABLE programs,” says DiNapoli. “Given that it’s a new program and a very popular program across the country, more states are buying into it, I’m not anticipating anything negative, but who knows.”
Including New York, 30 states offer the ABLE program. Krys McCuin is executive director of The Arc of Dutchess.
“We have a gentleman here today who receives services from us and he has lots of questions about ‘how to.’ And, right now, he’s talking with his service coordinator and he’s going to talk with another support staff that comes in later. So he has questions about how to do it,” McCuin says. “So, for us, that means we need to get educated on the process so we can help support people who want to enroll and sign up, and be a resource for families.”
Jamie Griffin is that gentleman’s Medicaid service coordinator at The Arc of Dutchess.
“I think it’s a good way to save money and easy access to your money, too, which would be good,” Griffin says. “And it’s more, depending on... with the individual, I like how it’s more based upon the individual and what they want because a lot of times they feel that they don’t have a say in what they want to do.”
To be eligible, an individual must have a disability that was present before age 26.