TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For parents with children with disabilities, or Floridians living with disabilities, the future can be uncertain when it comes to work and finances. Now, a first of its kind savings plan hopes to alleviate those fears.
Jenn Sikora has worried about her son Sean’s future on more than one occasion.
“For 13 years, we lived in this kind of atmosphere of what are we going to do, what are we going to do when we’re gone? How are we going to plan for that future to happen?” she said.
Sean has Down Syndrome. He, along with millions of others in Florida, could have financial struggles ahead.
“8 out of 10 of American citizens with a disability are not in the workforce,” said Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers).
ABLE United hopes to change that. The ABLE accounts launched July 1st and allow families to save up to $100,000 tax free.
“Now I feel like I can have a little deep breath and relax a little bit,” said Sikora.
Floridians with disabilities had previously only been allowed to receive government benefits if they made less than $700 dollars a month and had less than $2,000 in assets.
The ABLE account would allow people to keep their benefits, something Megan Atkinson says could be life changing.
“I’m able to save a little bit of money so we can get a house or other things like that and I can continue my education,” she said.
Disability advocates say the accounts could be the first step in ending poverty for the disabled.
“Prior to this, you earned a paycheck and you had to spend it right away because otherwise, you were penalized for saving money,” said advocate J.R. Harding.
Florida is one of only three states that have established the accounts since a federal law was passed in December of 2014. The money in the account can go towards expenses like housing, education, transportation, and healthcare.