ABLE UTAH: New program allows people with disabilities to save & invest without losing benefits

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – On Wednesday, September 8, the Utah Department of Workforce Services and the Utah State Treasurer’s Office announced the launch of ABLE Utah, a tax-free savings program for individuals with disabilities receiving needs-based benefits.

“They deserve to have the same rights and options as everyone else,” Assistant Director for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation Aaron Thompson said.

Thompson said people with disabilities have a hard enough time getting a job. That is why he believes they should be able to save money and invest without potentially losing their benefits. 

“When they’re on an assistance program like Medicaid or Social Security, there’s an income and asset threshold, so it really makes it hard to explore your options and opportunities and save money because you look at that threshold and if you go over it you could lose those benefits,” Thompson said.

As a result, he said they don’t have as many opportunities and incentives to work.

To address this problem, ABLE accounts were created federally through the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in 2014 and established in Utah by the Utah State Legislature in 2015. Until 2021, however, these accounts were administered out of state. With the launch of ABLE Utah, residents can now access these accounts through the Department of Workforce Services and start saving and investing.

“It allows you to save money that you can invest for disability related expenses so you can contribute over $15,000 annually into these ABLE accounts,” Thompson said.

ABLE Utah accounts act like a regular bank account or investment tool—similar to a 529 college savings account or a 401(k) retirement account. Contributions and earnings in ABLE Utah accounts are not subject to federal or state income tax if spent on qualifying expenses, such as education, health care or housing and transportation. Contributions to ABLE Utah accounts are made with after-tax dollars.

“This savings program will benefit people with disabilities across the state and aid them in living more independent lives, finding stability through gainful employment and planning for the future,” said Department of Workforce Services’ Utah State Office of Rehabilitation Services Director Sarah Brenna.

ABLE Utah account holders can receive a debit card linked directly to their account. Money can be withdrawn and spent on qualified expenses as needed. Users can contribute up to $15,000 per year. If employed, they can contribute an additional $12,760 of income. Investment tools include four mutual fund-based investments and one FDIC-insured savings option.

“Even putting 50, 20, dollars in a month… you’re going to see that grow. So when you see that investment and what you can use it for, that’s going to be the long term impact,” Thompson said.

“ABLE Utah will be a beneficial asset for people with disabilities across the state,” said Utah State Treasurer Marlo M. Oaks. “This savings program is an important part of our ongoing efforts to provide better opportunities for Utahns with disabilities and support Utah’s economy and workforce.”

Thompson said this program is available to those dealing with an injury, mental health issues, substance abuse or is on the autism spectrum.

More information about ABLE Utah, including the application form and eligibility requirements can be found at ableut.com.

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