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Politics & Government

Proposed legislation aims to help those with disabilities in Delaware put money away

Delaware Public Media

Those with disabilities in Delaware could save for their future without losing federal benefits under a new bill in Delaware.

Legislation would create a tax-exempt savings account under the federal ABLE Act that Congress passed last year.Rick Kosmalski's daughter Kayla has Down Syndrome. He and his family lobbied for the bill in Washington, D.C., noting that currently those receiving Social Security and Medicaid benefits can’t have more than a few thousand dollars in assets and still receive assistance.

“It really hits home when you think, ‘Wow, I’m looking at my son and he gets presents on holidays and his birthday and he’s allowed to save that and we can put that in an account.’ But Kayla’s not allowed to do that and they tell you that right when your kid is born.”

The savings account is based off of an existing 529 Education Savings Plan that is available to families nationwide, but slightly tweaked.

“People with disabilities on Medicaid can do the same thing, but they can also use this for other quality of life expenses like medical, education, transportation, things that are not provided today through existing Medicaid supports,” said Kosmalski.

Those eligible have to provide records of their disability before the age of 26, or show that they developed their condition before that age.

After someone saves more than $100,000, that person would no longer be eligible for Social Security benefits, but could still be enrolled in Medicaid.

Each account could hold up to $350,000 just like similar education savings plans available to other residents. Annual contributions from everyone – including family and friends – stand at $14,000 and will be tied to inflation.

The bill has broad bipartisan support in the General Assembly.

Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) is one of the lawmakers spearheading the effort. Smith, whose son has special needs, refused to say whether her family would use this fund should the legislation pass.

Other co-sponsors include Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) and Sen. Nicole Poore (D-Bear) who also have children with disabilities.

Smith says she hopes to have the bill in a House committee next week.