RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The opening ceremony for the Special Olympics of Virginia is this Friday. During the ceremony, Governor McAuliffe will sign legislation supporting the ABLE Act, which will let families of children with disabilities save for their futures tax-free, much like a college 529 plan.
Nicholas is seven years old and has Down Syndrome. His parents have not been able to set aside money in his name for his care later in life.
"You're faced with all these new challenges, immediately worrying for the future, having to pay for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy," said Nicholas' mother Traci LaGanke.
Children with disabilities can qualify for Medicaid and other benefits to help cover expensive care and treatment costs, if they stay under low financial limits.
"For a very long time, a child with a disability could not have more than $2000 to their name," explained LaGanke.
Rick Jeffrey, President of Special Olympics Virginia, says that's created a common problem for parents of children with disabilities.
"Parents tell me all the time their biggest fear is what happens to their child when they're gone and their child is here after they've past away," said Jeffrey.
That's why LaGanke helped work to get first Congress, and now Virginia, to pass the ABLE Act, which will let these families save money in a trust, tax free, much like a 529 plan. The trusts will also be administered by the same Virginia College Savings Plan.
The savings plans are called ABLE plans, or Achieving a Better Life Experience plans, because they go beyond a 529 plan. The money can be used not just for education, but other necessities like housing, transportation, therapies, and health care.
Having an ABLE account won't disqualify a child for Medicaid or other benefits, which gives Nicholas' mom peace of mind.
"We can save money for him and he can use it for his betterment - for him to reach his goals, his desires, his dreams," said LaGanke. "To know that we've done the best we can to help him do that, it's pretty special."
The Virginia College Savings Plan is expected to start offering ABLE plans by the end of this year.
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