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Bill Aims to Make Disabled in SC More Self-Sufficient

Columbia, SC – We’re halfway through Autism Awareness Month.

In South Carolina, there’s now an effort to help families of autistic and other disabled children. A new bill would help children be self sufficient and not penalize the families.

Capitol reporter Robert Kittle breaks it down:

A bill aimed at helping South Carolinians who have disabilities be more self-sufficient is now moving through the South Carolina House. The ABLE Act, which stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience, would allow people with disabilities to set up tax-deferred savings accounts to use for housing, transportation, job training, and other needs.

Right now, if they have more than $2,000 in assets they lose their government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

Roy Williams’ 19-year-old son Sean has autism. He lives at home because, under the current law, there’s no way for him to save up to buy a home of his own, yet he can’t afford to rent something either. There’s no way to ever save more than $2,000 to do anything, Roy says. He’s kind of trapped into a situation where he has to stay at home if he can’t save to buy his own home.”

The U. S. Congress passed the ABLE Act last year, but states have to pass their own laws to set up the savings accounts, which are similar to 529 college savings plans set up by states. A South Carolina House subcommittee has passed the bill and it’s now in the full House Ways and Means Committee.

Bill sponsor Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, says, “It doesn’t cost the state anything, other than it deprives the state of the opportunity to seize assets. But with people with disabilities, I think it’s better to allow them to have some self-sufficiency rather than completely depending upon the state.”

He says he hasn’t heard any opposition to the bill, so he’s hopeful it will pass this year.

Those who would qualify for an ABLE Plan are disabled before the age of 26. The National Disability Institute estimates 5.8 million Americans would be eligible for an ABLE account.

Sean Williams is hopeful state lawmakers pass the bill so he can set up an account, save up enough money, and move out on his own. “I can take care of myself, he says.


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