Savings program surpasses $4 million in contributions
State Treasurer Riley Moore, along with advocates for individuals with disabilities, today celebrated the fourth anniversary of WVABLE, a savings program that promotes financial independence while preserving important government benefits.
“This critical savings program provides individuals with disabilities the ability to achieve financial independence without the risk of losing essential federal benefits,” Treasurer Moore said. “We’re proud to say it’s grown rapidly since its inception, and we look forward to helping it empower many more West Virginians in the coming year.”
In December 2014, Congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) Act to expand financial savings opportunities to people with disabilities. Prior to the federal ABLE Act, individuals with a disability who had more than $2,000 in savings could lose eligibility for Medicaid coverage and Supplemental Social Security payments.
Medical costs for people with disabilities are typically much higher than that of the general population, so it’s essential for them to be able to build up savings.
The federal ABLE Act allowed for the creation of tax-advantaged accounts that are used to pay for qualified disability expenses that help maintain or improve the health, independence and quality of life for the individual with the disability. The West Virginia Legislature passed a state version of the ABLE Act in 2015, and the program launched under the State Treasurer’s Office on February 9, 2018.
“Before the ABLE Act, individuals with disabilities were penalized if they saved too much money – this was wrong,” Treasurer Moore said. “Penalizing people for taking responsible steps toward financial independence accomplishes nothing but to keep them poor and dependent. That’s why WVABLE has been such a tremendous help.”
Under the WVABLE program, individuals who developed their disability before the age of 26 can open what’s known as a STABLE account, which is similar to a 529 college savings account. Contributions up to $16,000 annually may be made, and for the employed beneficiary an additional $12,880 may be contributed for an annual total of $28,880. In addition to the tax benefits for contributions, investment earnings grow tax-free and withdrawals for qualified expenses are tax-free as well.
West Virginia residents may set up WVABLE savings accounts through Treasurer Moore’s Office.
The program has been growing at a rapid rate, with total assets under management climbing nearly 75 percent in 2021. As of Feb. 4, the program has seen more than $4 million in total contributions, with the average account balance reaching nearly $7,000 – more than three times the limit a person could save before the ABLE Act was passed.
“The WVABLE program continues to help hundreds and potentially thousands of West Virginians with disabilities save and invest for the future and remain eligible for essential public resources – such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income,” said Steve Wiseman, Executive Director of the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council. “The WVABLE program has solved one of the major problems for people with disabilities to gain paid employment. A person can be paid and save their assets without fear of losing their essential public resources.”
“The advantages of a WVABLE account are many, but perhaps one of the most important benefits is that it provides persons with disabilities, and their families, with the security of knowing that financial needs can and will be met without risk to other assistances,” said Russell Cook, Legal Director for Disability Rights of West Virginia. “Knowing that the financial needs of a loved one will be met in the future, regardless of future events, can provide families with an invaluable sense of peace and security. WVABLE accounts can provide this peace of mind for all persons.”
WVABLE is administered by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office through a partnership with the Ohio Treasurer’s Office STABLE program. For more information, or to sign up for an account, visit WVABLE.com.