State treasurer hopes to promote savings accounts for the disabled

savings accounts

savings accountsA savings program for people with disabilities is being underutilized in Nevada, and the state treasurer is exploring ways to remedy the problem.

Named for the 2014 Achieving a Better Life Experience Act that established them at the federal level, ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts that allow people with disabilities to save money without fear of losing eligibility for public benefits programs.

People with disabilities often depend on public programs like Social Security Insurance (SSI), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid. Eligibility for such programs typically requires a person have less than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds and other financial resources — meaning they must remain poor.

With ABLE accounts, people with disabilities can save for disability-related expenses. This can include education or job training, assistance services, assistive technology, and accessible housing costs. Many of these expenses can be costly and are not fully covered by private insurance or public benefits.

People can contribute up to $15,000 annually to their ABLE accounts.

Only around 60 Nevadans are currently taking advantage of the program. It’s uncertain how many Nevadans are eligible for ABLE, which has eligibility limitations based off severity and age when the disability began.

Approximately 12 to 13 percent of all Nevadans have some kind of disability.

State Treasurer Zach Conine, who was elected to office as part of the blue wave last November, wants to see the number of ABLE participants increase. He believes the first step in making that happen is correcting a strange division of labor that exists in state law.

While Nevada’s ABLE program was established and is managed by Treasurer’s Office, the responsibility and authority to market the program is given to the Aging and Disability Services Division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

This has led to administrative confusion, says disability advocate Erik Jimenez, who now works in the Treasurer’s Office. People will call Aging and Disability Services for information on ABLE accounts and be directed to the Treasurer’s Office, only to be directed back to Aging and Disability Services by someone in the Treasurer’s Office.

The Treasurer’s Office has been collaborating with lawmakers on Assembly Bill 130, which, if passed, would transfer all responsibilities related to the ABLE program to the Treasurer, allowing the office to devote personnel and resources to promoting the program. According to Jimenez, Aging and Disability Services supports the bill.

While on the surface it may seem like bureaucratic paper shuffling, Jimenez says streamlining and strengthening the state’s ABLE program is a key component of larger efforts to reform policies related to the intellectually disabled.

Jimenez is also leading the effort to eliminate subminimum wage for people with intellectual disabilities. The Fair Labor Standards Act allows for authorized employers to pay intellectually disabled people less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, in the name of job training. These workers are paid based off their production compared to a worker without a disability. The efforts have gained traction at the city level and are set to be explored at the state level through a separate bill, which has not yet been introduced into the legislature.

Disability advocates who support subminimum wage often point to public benefit eligibility as justification, claiming that many disabled people would opt not to work rather than lose eligibility.

April Corbin
Reporter | April Corbin is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. Most recently she covered local government for Las Vegas Sun. She has also been a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of its student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April serves as treasurer of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter and is an at-large member of the Asian American Journalists Association. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise. She lives with her boyfriend, his toddler, three mutts and five chickens. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, exploring Nevada and defending selfies.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Who is this actually for? If my disability is so severe that I can’t work and can’t afford to pay for services, where am I going to get the money to put into a savings account? If I had that money, why would I not just be using it to pay for the services I need?

    I guess there are a few unique people who are just on the cusp of being disabled enough to qualify for this program, but not so severely disabled that they’re unable to work. But mostly it seems like the point of this program is to help disabled people with rich families game the system, while most disabled people continue to get screwed over. So of course Democrats are going to prioritize that, while doing jack shit to fund programs that would actually help a substantial number of disabled people.

  2. I agree with the comment below, At first glance it sounded great if the account would accrue interest and allow poor individuals to save-up for a ie; home purchase, college, vehicle etc. without risking their benefits, Instead its purpose is no different than for someone to keep their money stashed at home.

    Yet they “are confused” as to why only 60 residents in the entire state arr using it? It serves no purpose.

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