Morning Journal: Local family taking advantage of state treasurer’s new savings plan
By Katie White
July 5, 2017
CALCUTTA — At least one Columbiana County resident is taking advantage of a financial opportunity for those with developmental disabilities.
Brian Andrix, the son of Tom Andrix, who serves on the county’s Board of Developmental Disabilities, is signed up for a STABLE Account, which was launched by Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel last summer.
Mandel is currently running for U.S. Senate against Democrat Sherrod Brown.
Mandel’s representatives visited with Tom Andrix and his son at the EDI-South habilitation center in Calcutta on Thursday to promote the program that is administered by the treasurer’s office.
STABLE Accounts offer tax-free savings accounts to people with disabilities and are different from the special needs trusts accounts that must comply with the Medicaid and Social Security Income asset limit of $2,000.
STABLE is Ohio’s response to the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act that allowed for tax-free investment accounts without risk of loss of benefits, with STABLE standing for State Treasury Achieving a Better Life Experience.
Mandel’s press secretary Amanda Merritt said Ohio was the first in the nation to offer tax-free savings accounts to those with disabilities. There are now STABLE Account holders in 49 states, and 22 states with ABLE programs, she said.
Tom Andrix said that his family’s “biggest hurdles” with regards to financial responsibility for their son was the $2,000 Medicaid and SSI limit.
He said the limit resulted in the family encouraging Brian to “spend-down” his account just so he wouldn’t lose his benefits. Spend-downs would usually mean buying a new recliner or a new TV every so often, just to make sure the account wouldn’t go over.
“Consequently, it forced you to spend money,” Tom Andrix said. “We were terrified to let it go over $2,000, even on a bank statement. That $2,000 is nothing compared to the medical insurance he has.”
Under the STABLE program participants and their family members can contribute up to $14,000 a year to the accounts, according to information from the treasurer’s office.
The accounts are limited to balances of $445,000, a far cry from the Medicaid and SSI limit.
Tom Andrix said the account has made it easier for his friends and relatives to contribute to his son’s account for things like graduations, birthdays, or just pitching in for trips, like the special olympics, which Brian recently competed in at Columbus.
Before, relatives had to rely on sending Brian gift cards in the mail, to avoid increasing his savings account, Tom Andrix said.
Merritt pointed out that anyone who contributes to a STABLE Account can count that as a tax-deductible contribution.
STABLE Accounts Deputy Director Doug Jackson said another difference between the new program and a special needs trust is that money in a STABLE Account can also be put toward housing, food, and other basic needs, while the trust does not allow that.
He also said the accounts empower those with disabilities toward more financial freedom by allowing them to have access to their own bank card with their name on it. The card can be loaded by their legal guardian for specific amounts.
Once the card is loaded Brian can only spend the amount that has been loaded onto it.
“It limits the liability and helps teach him money management and spending, and it tracks all of the expenses,” Jackson said.
Money Brian earns for working at the EDI-South facility also goes into the account.
Brian has worked at EDI-South since 1997, mainly in custodial work, although he does do assembly work every so often. His favorite thing is mopping the floors and mowing, he said.
“People want to be able to work,” Tom Andrix said.
More information on the STABLE Accounts can be found online at stableaccount.com