Governor Signs ABLE Legislation To Help Those With Disabilities Save With Tax-free Earnings

Monday, May 18, 2015
From left, Whitney Goetz, LaKesha Page, Senator Becky Duncan Massey, Steve Summerall, Governor Bill Haslam, Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr., Rep. Kevin Brooks, Carol Westlake and Melanie Bull.
From left, Whitney Goetz, LaKesha Page, Senator Becky Duncan Massey, Steve Summerall, Governor Bill Haslam, Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr., Rep. Kevin Brooks, Carol Westlake and Melanie Bull.
- photo by Jed Dekalb, Chief State Photographer

Families of those with disabilities are now one step closer to saving more money for medical costs with tax-free earnings. Governor Haslam on Monday signed the Tennessee ABLE Act into law, giving State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. the authority to create and offer tax-advantaged investment plans to help families of those with disabilities save money for a variety of qualifying expenses.  

The legislation, passed unanimously by the 109th General Assembly, establishes an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program in accordance with federal legislation. The legislation was sponsored by Senator Becky Duncan Massey (R), of Knoxville in the Senate and by Representatives Steve McManus (R) of Cordova and Kevin Brooks (R) of Cleveland. The bill sponsors were joined by representatives from the Tennessee Disability Coalition to watch as Governor Haslam signed the legislation into law.  

This ABLE Act is effective July 1, 2015, and the Tennessee Treasury Department plans to have the program operational January 1, 2016. 

Under Treasurer Lillard’s leadership, Treasury established the TNStars College Savings 529 program in 2012. The program has received national accolades for its top-performing investment options. Treasury will be responsible for the implementation, administration, investment options and management and customer service of this new ABLE program, a plan whose concept is modeled after the 529 College Savings Programs. 

“Treasury Management oversees the investment options available to families in TNStars,” Treasurer Lillard said. “We are excited to soon offer a similar program to help individuals with disabilities and their families save more by taking advantage of the power of compounding interest and tax-free earnings for qualifying expenses.” 

“As executive director of the Sertoma Center I work to serve over 100 adults with intellectual disabilities. I see the individuals that need the ABLE program every day,” Senator Massey said. “When the federal legislation passed, I could not wait to sponsor this legislation in Tennessee to see this program become a reality.” 

Caring for loved ones with disabilities is very expensive for the family, despite the current assistance available, said officials. Once established, earnings on the funds saved through the Tennessee ABLE program would supplement the benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid benefits, Supplemental Social Security Income, as well as the account beneficiary’s income.  Qualifying expenses will include, but are not limited to, education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, and personal support services, as consistent with federal legislation that became law in December 2014. 

“We continue to trust our Treasury Department and Treasurer Lillard to effectively implement these new programs and ideas in Tennessee,” Rep. McManus said. “The success of the TNStars program is encouraging and demonstrates the great potential for the ABLE Program under Treasury guidance, as well.” 

The United States Congress adopted the ABLE Act in December 2014, setting guidelines for this new type of tax-advantaged saving program that states can elect to authorize and implement. The ABLE Act is the first major federal legislation for the disabled since the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. 

“Kimberly and I are blessed with a happy and healthy family, but thousands of Tennessee families need help with the costs for care, therapy and recovery for our most vulnerable Tennessee residents,” said State Rep. Kevin Brooks. 

“Today’s bill signing is an important first step to helping these individuals and their families save more and see a tax advantage for their efforts,” Treasurer Lillard said. “Help is on the way as the Treasury Department has already begun to work on the implementation of this exciting new program to assist Tennessean’s most vulnerable citizens.”


Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership Releases New Tools To Promote The Region

Unemployment Rates Increase In 93 Counties

Secretary Hargett Encourages Tennesseans To Give Wisely This Holiday Season


The Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership has unveiled Greater Chattanooga Economic Development, which will serve as the organization’s primary quality-of-life marketing program for talent ... (click for more)

Many Tennessee counties experienced changes in their unemployment rates during October, according to newly released data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Unemployment ... (click for more)

In this season of giving, Secretary of State Tre Hargett cautions Tennesseans to be wary of scams when making charitable donations. "Tennesseans are generous and support each other in times ... (click for more)



Business

Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership Releases New Tools To Promote The Region

The Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership has unveiled Greater Chattanooga Economic Development, which will serve as the organization’s primary quality-of-life marketing program for talent attraction and business recruitment. The program includes a digital magazine and print publication and significant exposure on Livability.com, a national website with information about more ... (click for more)

Unemployment Rates Increase In 93 Counties

Many Tennessee counties experienced changes in their unemployment rates during October, according to newly released data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Unemployment in 93 of Tennessee’s 95 counties increased in October. Davidson and Sevier counties saw their rates decrease during the month. During October, two counties in the state had unemployment ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Tennessee Has 3,052 New COVID Cases, 13 More Deaths; Hamilton County Has 320 New COVID Cases And 1 New Death

The number of coronavirus cases in Tennessee is 366,518 on Sunday with 3,052 new cases. There have been 13 more deaths from the virus, for a total of 4,554, said state Health Department officials. Hamilton County had 320 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday. The new total is 17,826. There was one more death from the virus in the county since Friday, bringing the total to 153. ... (click for more)

Georgia Has 4 New Coronavirus Deaths, 1,700 New Cases

Georgia state health officials reported on Sunday there have been 4 additional deaths due to the coronavirus. The current total is 8,778. There were 1,700 new cases as that total reached 420,601 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Hospitalizations are at 34,782, up 58 from Saturday. Here are the numbers by county: Catoosa County: 2,054 cases, up 16; 29 deaths; 99 ... (click for more)

Opinion

County Employees Need A Bonus Too

A few weeks ago we learned that Sheriff Jim Hammond was asking for a second raise. Earlier this year Hamilton County employees were notified that "due to COVID-19" there would be no raises for employees of any kind this year. I guess Mr. Hammond didnt get that memo about no raises. Why is it that some employees will be getting a raise and others are not? That doesn't really ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Facts - Deer & Trees

On Saturday deer season opens in Tennessee, and just as predictably as Tuesday will be the first day of December, the tree huggers will soon come running, clutching their “Bambi” books and bashing – if you please – the best conservationists among us. Those who hunt, and, yes, there is an undeniable thrill to the sport, do more for nature’s balance and the good of the land than any ... (click for more)