Economy

People with disabilities who receive benefits and Medicaid are now eligible for accounts that would also allow them to save and invest money.

Prior to mid-December, a person receiving these benefits could not have more than $2,000 in assets, or they’d be cut off from their benefits and Medicaid.

The accounts — referred to as STABLE accounts — were made possible by the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act. The federal act was passed in 2014 and permits those receiving disability benefits to have accounts that would help with living and career expenses, for example, that are not covered by current benefits.

The program was rolled out last year by the state treasurer.  As of early January, 42 people have enrolled in Kentucky.

Amanda Stahl is a counselor to people with developmental disabilities and a Medicaid recipient herself. When we spoke earlier this week, she was planning to sign up for her own STABLE account.

“It’s really hard to live on $2,000 without a savings account or a back up account,” she says. “I have to pay for a lot of things that Medicaid won’t pay for to be successful in my career and in my life. These accounts allow us to save money and also us to work and pay taxes and be able to support the programs that we’re under.”

Along with being able to contribute up to $14,000 per year in the account, friends and family can also deposit cash in a loved one’s account. State Treasurer Allison Ball says that’s a big deal for many people.

“You actually jeopardize your benefits prior to STABLE accounts,” she said. “So people were very, very cautious. They could give little bits and help in very minimal ways. But in the past it was actually counted against you for your benefits you receive.”

An enrollee can have up to $100,000 in the account before it affects their benefits.

“It’s a pretty good amount of money; not an enormous amount but it’s enough to help people when they need help,” says Ball.

For the lifetime of the account, a person can have approximately $426,000. One of the five types of accounts, the Bank Safe Option, is FDIC-insured.

Eligible uses for the money include housing, education, and employment training.

Roxanne Scott covers the economy for WFPL News.