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Schmitt pushes for disability legislation

Saint Louis, Mo. — Sen. Eric Schmitt and disability advocates joined together today to tout Schmitt’s SB174, a bill that creates 529 savings accounts for families of individuals with disabilities.

The Missouri Achieving a Better Life Experience Program (ABLE) creates tax-advantaged accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families. The accounts will allow those individuals to save money that won’t be counted among an individual’s assets while applying for various public benefits, an effort Schmitt said was to remove the incentive for those with disabilities “to remain poor.”

“The passage of SB 174 is a seminal moment in disability rights advocacy,” Schmitt said. “It’s a smart, compassionate way to save for those long term needs for those with disabilities.”

Under Schmitt’s legislation, an individual can put up to $14,000 per year as a gift into an ABLE account and deduct every cent from their taxes. Schmitt said the legislation was personal for him. He has a 10-year-old son, Stephen, with severe developmental disabilities related to autism, who is completely non-verbal.

Schmitt told the crowd that he and his wife share many of the concerns voiced by advocates about their children’s future and that establishing ABLE accounts will let families put aside money for their loved ones for years to come.

“In the testimony we heard on this bill, we heard a recurring theme about peace of mind,” Schmitt said. “This is going to give people that foundation and that peace of mind to know that there will be some money there to get the resources they might need.”

Amee Wehmeier, CEO and Executive Director of Paraquad, a disability rights advocacy group, said SB 174 represented a major step forward for individuals with disabilities and said they hoped to be able to begin saving into the account within about one year.

The ABLE legislation is thanks largely to the 2014 ABLE Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. The law calls for individual states to create their own enabling legislation, and a Paraquad spokesperson said the broad support for the legislation had helped fast track the rule making process.

Gov. Jay Nixon still has a few weeks before he must sign or veto the legislation; although supporters say they are all-but-certain he will approve the bill.