Program increases tax free savings options for people with disabilities

MIAMI – There are many ways to build tax advantage savings for the future, from employer sponsored plans, college savings options and accounts to set aside money for healthcare costs, but for years, these options have eluded those with cognitive disabilities, such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, cognitive and development disabilities, as well as mental and physical impairments.

Many are unaware of a special program specifically designed to give this population a chance to save for the current and future care and support they need.

People like Geno Carfagna, who was diagnosed with autism a few months after his birth in 1990.

His mom said the diagnosis didn’t change the many unique things about her son.

“He actually sang opera when he was about 3 or 4, so we knew that Geno was very special,” Shebah Carfagna said.

Like many parents of children with special needs, Carfagna was confronted with a financial conflict.

If Geno saved more than $2,000 a year, he risked losing government benefits like Social Security and Medicaid.

“There really wasn’t a tool or mechanism to help families put funds aside to help save for whatever the future may hold,” said John Finch, director of a program called ABLE United.

ABLE United was created under the “Achieving A Better Life Act” passed by Congress in 2014.

In an "ABLE" account, up to $15,000 a year can be saved, tax-free, without the risk of losing government benefits.

“It is for the benefit of the person with the disability, but there’s a wide range of expenses that can be paid for out of an ABLE account, so whether you’re saving for educational expenses, transitional services or even putting a down payment on a home or vehicle, all of those could be qualified expenses that somebody could use this ABLE account for,” Finch said.

The program gives Carfagna peace of mind knowing that if she’s no longer able to be there for her son, he will have the resources necessary for her family to care for him, and for Geno to be able to care for himself.

“My hope for Geno has been to be not just in the community, but an active member of the community,” she said.

Since the program was started in 2016 here in Florida, over 5,200 ABLE accounts have been created and more than $30 million have been saved in those accounts for those in need.

To find out more, go to www.ableunited.com.

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