(WBIR) U.S. lawmakers will look at a bill on Wednesday morning focused on helping people with disabilities gain more independence.
Currently, a person with a disability can only have $2,000 in a savings account; any more than that can affect eligibility for federal benefits, like Medicare.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act would amend Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986.
People with disabilities would be able create tax-free savings accounts where family, friends, and the individual could add money without the amount affecting federal benefits. The money could be used for things like education, housing, and transportation.
Kristin Alm of West Knoxville is the mother of Harper Alm, a 3-year-old with Down syndrome.
"Every American can have tax-deferred or tax-free savings accounts, but Harper can't have any of that because of her disability," Alm said.
The Alms are one of the East Tennessee families fighting for this legislation.
Donnie Newman is on the Down Syndrome Awareness Group of East Tennessee board. Newman's daughter, Holly, would benefit from the ABLE Act right now. The 22-year-old has a part-time job at Carson-Newman University. Newman said an ABLE account would be similar to a 529 college savings account.
"She has a strong work ethic and she would like to be able to make her own money, contribute to a savings account in her own name," Newman said.
Alm added, "As a parent, our biggest fear is not being able to provide for Harper once we're gone. People like her with Down syndrome especially are living longer than ever which is wonderful news but as a little bit older parents, we just worry about her outliving us and not having the funds she needs to have a great life."
Sen. Lamar Alexander and Congressman Jimmy Duncan both recently added their names to the list of lawmakers co-sponsoring the ABLE Act.
10News also spoke with Sen. Bob Corker's communications director, Micah Johnson, who emailed us, "Senator Corker understands the impact developmental disabilities have on individuals and families and has met with many Tennesseans who care deeply about this issue. While he does not sit on the committee of jurisdiction, he will carefully consider the legislation should it be considered by the full Senate."
A U.S. Senate Finance subcommittee will hold a hearing on the ABLE Act on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. If passed, it would move on to a full committee.
Sara Wolff, a 31-year-old with Down syndrome, is expected to speak at the hearing. Her petition to pass the ABLE Act has more than 250,000 signatures.