Creating Financial Empowerment for Disabled Californians

Creating Financial Empowerment for Disabled Californians

Sacramento

Hundreds of disabled residents in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties can now benefit from a new and innovative state program for the disabled launched last week by California State Treasurer John Chiang.  

Established under the mandates of the federal  Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, CalABLE allows for tax-advantaged investment accounts to help qualified individuals with disabilities and their families save for disability-related expenses. Anyone can contribute to an individual’s CalABLE account; however, all contributions combined cannot exceed $15,000 in any given tax year. 

Additionally, the funds in the account are not considered when determining eligibility for means-tested federally-funded benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. It is important to note that a person can only be the beneficiary of one CalABLE account

CalABLE will allow individuals with disabilities to open tax-advantaged savings and investment accounts and contribute significantly more than the $2,000 disabled individuals are currently allowed to save under guidelines defined by many other government programs. 

California State Treasurer John Chiang

As noted above, under CalABLE, eligible individuals can contribute as much as $15,000 a year—up to a maximum of $529,000—to a CalABLE account and still maintain such benefits as Medi-Cal and CalFresh. Those who wish to remain eligible for SSI can also contribute the annual $15,000, but their maximum is limited to $100,000, without those funds counting as assets.

In a Tweet on Friday Chiang noted, “Living with a disability should not leave one living in poverty. CalABLE affirms our commitment to equity and equality and will finally usher in an era of financial inclusion and security for all Californians.” 

Funds in a CalABLE account can be used to purchase “qualified disability-related expenses.” A “qualified disability expense” is any expense related to the designated beneficiary’s blindness or disability that assists him/her in increasing and/or maintaining their health, independence and/or quality of life. These may include expenses related to education, housing, transportation, employment training, support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services as well as other related expenses.

When considering CalABLE be aware that upon the death of the account’s beneficiary, California may file a claim to all or a portion of the funds in the account equal to the amount the state spent on him/her through the state Medicaid program. This is commonly referred to as the “Medicaid Payback” provision which can recoup Medicaid-related expenses from the time the account was opened. Those who did not receive Medicaid services during the period of the CalABLE account will not be subject to the payback rule. 

Learn more about CalABLE at https://www.treasurer.ca.gov/able/index.asp.

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