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The Arc Supports Members of Congress in Unveiling Legislation to Give Families Greater Financial Flexibility for Loved Ones With a Disability

Washington, DC – Today, The Arc of the United States joined Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and disability organizations to unveil the “Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2011” (ABLE Act) at the U.S. Capitol.

The ABLE Act aims to change the tax code to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation. By creating ABLE accounts, this bill would let families plan and save secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not replace, benefits provided through private insurances, the Medicaid program, the Supplemental Security Income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources. Instead of penalizing people with disabilities whose families are able to set aside some funds to allow them to be more independent in life down the road, the ABLE Act provides new opportunities and breaks down barriers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

“The ABLE Act is about giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Families are looking for ways to finance things like an apartment, or a ride to work, or additional educational opportunities after high school that don’t jeopardize other necessary services provided by federal programs. This bill creates a tool for families that could lead to a more independent and fulfilling life,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Berns spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill and highlighted some of the important benefits for individuals with IDD and their families. Members of the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, and other organizations were also on hand to support the cause.

Berns referenced a young man named Geoffrey Mikol, who is a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland. After Geoffrey graduates, he would like to work in the community, perhaps in the paleontology field. But in order to fulfill that dream, his mom will need to find ways to make it happen, saving additional dollars for training and transportation, and making sure she can financially plan and save for unforeseeable needs in Geoffrey’s future.

“Right now, there could be too many obstacles in Geoffrey’s way, forcing him to be unemployed and isolated. The ABLE Act will remove barriers for people like Geoffrey, who shouldn’t have to abandon his dream of working in his community simply because of the logistics necessary to make it happen. We allow this type of savings for the future of our children without disabilities – this just gives the same opportunity to people with disabilities,” said Berns.