MO ABLE program designed to help people with disabilities save money

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COLUMBIA - Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt announced on Monday that Missouri has entered into an agreement with four other states (Ohio, Vermont, Georgia and Kentucky) to implement MO ABLE.

MO ABLE is a program that creates tax-advantaged savings accounts for expenses related to disabilities and special needs. 

Schmitt said more than 800,000 Missourians live with a disability. 

The MO ABLE program would allow families a way to build long-term savings for their loved one with a disability in the same way they would save for college. 

MO ABLE accounts, which will be available in the next few months, will function similarly to Missouri’s MOST 529 College Savings Plan. Missourians who contribute to MO ABLE accounts will be eligible for a tax deduction of up to $8,000 or $16,000 if married and filing jointly.

In Schmitt's video announcement, he said MO ABLE is personal to him because he has a child that could benefit from the program. 

“As the parents of a twelve year-old who faces the challenges of several profound disabilities, my wife Jaime and I know just how important it is that we offer the best ABLE program possible for Missouri families,” Schmitt said.

He said the partnership would feature the lowest costs and highest quality in the nation. 

Accounts can be opened through the Office of State Treasurer or through a financial aid officer. MO ABLE will partner with financial institutions, non-profits and disability advocacy groups all across the state so the people they serve are made aware of the program. 

Schmitt said the goal is to empower people to save and to give them a peace of mind.

State-based ABLE programs are made possible by the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014. Earnings in ABLE Accounts are not subject to federal income tax, so long as funds are spent on qualified disability expenses.

Schmitt's announcement came on the 16th annual "Disability Rights Legislative Day."

Karen Gridley, public policy specialist at The Whole Person in Kansas City, Missouri, said its important for legislatures to see the individuals with disability.

"It's good for people to know that these individuals with disabilities still contribute to their communities," she said. "They are tax payers like everyone else, and call still be helpful assets." 

One Columbia mother, Robyn Schelp, who has a son with a developmental disability, said the program could really benefit her son. 

"Right now, we have college saving plans for two of our sons. This would give us a chance to save for our son with disabilities, in the same way, even though he may not go to college," Schelp said.

The state treasurer's website has details on opening an account, and the set up process for getting started.