Camp Opening Statement: Markup of the "ABLE Act of 2014"
Many of us in the room today know the joys and responsibilities of being a parent. Part of that responsibility is working every day to ensure that our kids can have a good education and live safe and healthy lives. We spend years ensuring they have the necessary skills so they can gain independence that allows them to reach their full potential as adults.
Being a parent is challenging, and many of the everyday responsibilities parents face can increase tremendously when they have a child with a disability. Today, we have an opportunity to ease some of the challenges that those with disabilities, their parents and their caretakers face. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, commonly known as the ABLE Act, will allow those with disabilities and their caregivers to have the stability and security of knowing that they can save and provide for education, housing and medical expenses in the future.
Many of our nation’s disabled receive their medical care through the Medicaid program and additional cash assistance from the Supplemental Security Income program, which provide a stable source of medical care and benefits. But to remain eligible for SSI, the program sets a “resources limit” of $2,000, limiting the ability of the disabled to save for the future.
The ABLE Act addresses that by allowing those with disabilities to set up tax-free savings accounts in order to save for their own costs of medical care, housing, transportation, and continued education. This will allow those who are on Medicaid and SSI to work, earn, and save more while still receiving important benefits. It is important to note that these savings accounts will be available to all individuals with disabilities and their caretakers, not just those on Medicaid or SSI.
This is a commonsense bill that will aid those with disabilities and their caretakers so they can live more fulfilling, happy lives and have the ability to provide for a better future. As Sara Wolff, a strong advocate of the ABLE Act who has worked for years to see its passage, said in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, “Just because I have Down syndrome, that shouldn’t hold me back from achieving my full potential in life. I can work a full-time job, be a productive member of society, and pay taxes – but because of these outdated laws placed on individuals with disabilities, people like me are held back in life. This is the year, we call on leaders in Congress to put an end to the inequities that exist for people with disabilities by passing the ABLE Act and allowing individuals and families to save for the future and break down the barriers to employment for these individuals.”
I couldn’t say it better than Sara did. Today, we have an opportunity to make a real difference for those who need it most.
Now, I will turn to a more technical note. The legislation before us is not offset. However, the Ranking Member and I have spoken and we agree that before this bill goes to the Floor, we need to find bipartisan payfors that not only he and I agree to, but can also easily pass the House and Senate.
So, while I look forward to a relatively quick markup today, we do have some work ahead of us. It is my expectation that immediately following today’s markup our staff will begin serious discussions on how we pay for this bill.
I am committed to working with and finding agreement with the Ranking Member in order to make this bill a reality. Given the over 370 cosponsors in the House and over 70 cosponsors in the Senate, we owe it to our colleagues – and more importantly, to those with disabilities and their families– to come up with a solution.