Proposal would give the disabled more financial independence - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Proposal would give the disabled more financial independence

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- United States Congress is considering what some say is the most significant legislation to help people with disabilities in more than two decades.

It's called the ABLE Act -- ABLE is short for Achieving a Better Life Experience -- and local advocates for the disabled are pushing for passage.

Katie Croom has not let Down Syndrome slow her life. The 25-year-old is a college graduate and works part-time at a retail store.

"I help people a lot," she said.

But current federal law restricts how much Katie and others with special needs can earn and save.

"Right now, the limit is $2,000. If you have more than $2,000, you are disqualified for Medicaid, Social Security, and other important services," said Diane Merzweiler, executive director of Down Syndrome of Louisville.

A proposed law pending in congress called the ABLE Act would change that.

It would allow people with disabilities or special needs to open tax-free savings accounts of up to $100,000 dollars to pay for qualified expenses such as medical bills, transportation and housing - without losing their government benefits.

Republicans in Congress pushed the bill this past weekend in their weekly address.

"This allows individuals with disabilities a better chance to help themselves, to be less dependent on government in their daily lives," said Florida Rep. Ander Crenshaw, one of the bill's sponsors.

"It would be a tremendous benefit to my son, particularly in years to come," said Jim McDonnell of Louisville.

He wants to be able open a college savings fund for his son, Parker, who has Down Syndrome.

"It will give people with disabilities like my son the ability to have a home, have a job, have money to determine what they're going to do with their life," said McDonnell.

Katie says she simply wants to work more hours and become more independent.

"I wish I had an apartment," she said.

"Folks with a disability have always been in almost like a forced poverty," said Merzweiler. "This way, because they're developing new skills, they can be more independent, they have their own dollars to use for services of their choice.

The ABLE Act passed the House overwhelmingly last week and is now pending in the Senate.

It does have the support of both Kentucky Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.

The only issue now is whether the bill is brought forward during the current lame duck session or whether it waits until next year when McConnell becomes Senate Majority Leader.

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