NORMAL, Ill. — Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs is trying to bring more awareness to the ABLE savings program.
Frerichs spoke Thursday at Normal Community West High School and explained how the program worked and how to sign up.
“It’s like a college savings account but for people with a disability,” Frerichs said.
He said the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) program is a tax -free savings program for individuals with disabilities. Illinois is one of 42 states to have this program and is partnered with 15 other states for its own.
Individuals can invest and save up to $100,000 with an ABLE account without losing federal benefits such as Social Security (SSI) and Medicaid, while normally those benefits are lost if they have $2,000 saved.
Frerichs explained if the $100,000 limit is exceeded and those federal benefits are taken away, once the account drops below to $99,999 the benefits are reinstated.
He clarified the money can only be withdrawn for disability-related expenses such as education, housing, transportation, health, assistive technology, personal support services, funeral and burial expenses, etc.
However, family members, account owners, friends and other third parties can only deposit money in small increments per year.
“Parents can contribute up to $15,000 a year into the account,” Frerichs said.
Frerichs said there is an exception for those with a disability who work. An Illinois ABLE account gives account owners an incentive to work as they’ll be able to contribute an additional amount above the $15,000 per year.
He also said some families are hesitant about starting an ABLE account, but once they understand the benefits and realize they can actually help their disabled loved one save more, it lifts a weight off their shoulders.
“When they learn that this will not risk their benefits and families realize there’s great potential here, it helps reduce a lot of anxiety they feel about what happens to their loved one when they pass,” Frerichs said.
Frerichs explained Illinois doesn’t have a large budget to advertise this program, but he said once more awareness is brought to it it’ll make a big difference in the lives of many people.