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ABLE Act helping disabled people save for the future

A new federal law is allowing disabled Americans a chance to work and earn money without risking losing their government benefits.What's called the ABLE Act is already offering people with disabilities more independence and opportunities.

Michelle Wolfe, of Oneida, works at the Arc of Madison Cortland in Oneida. Before the ABLE Act passed last December, working extra hours and saving some money was a problem.

"I was told I could only have $2,000 in the bank, otherwise, I’d lose everything,” said Wolfe.

Before ABLE, or the Achieving a Better Life Experience law, was passed, individuals with disabilities could not save more than $2,000 without risking losing their benefits, like Medicaid or Social Security.

ABLE allows savings up to $100,000 in an account similar to a 529 college savings account. Individuals with disabilities can establish these tax-exempt accounts to pay for qualified expenses -- including education, a residence, transportation and health care.  

Earning more has allowed Wolfe to dream about how to use her savings.

"Hopefully someday I can get probably get my own apartment and get a car," she said.

That kind of independence is also the goal of Erica Oswald, of Oriskany Falls, who struggled to make any extra income before this new law. 

"They were kind of afraid of my benefits and stuff. And now I can work extra hours,” said Oswald.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barnefeld) visited The Arc of Madison Cortland Work Center in Oneida this week. He voted for the legislation, which he says is one of those laws that just make sense.

"The idea that you should be penalized for saving money to help you become more independent, when you’re already at a disadvantage in your life, is rather ridiculous that it hasn’t been done sooner,” said Hanna.

Jack Campbell, executive director of Arc of Madison Cortland. The organization provides support services for disabled people. Campbell says the new law makes it easier for his agency to help these individuals find jobs.

“Now, this is just another tool in the toolbox for our employment division to be able to use to get people employment,” said Campbell. 

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.