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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Set To Launch Savings Plan For People With Disabilities

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

Oregonians with disabilities will soon be able to save money without losing their state and federal benefits. That's due to a newly created program rolling out December 6.

People with disabilities face a financial catch-22: Like everyone else, they need money to pay for basics like housing, medical expenses and more. But if they save too much, they're no longer eligible for programs meant to help them.

Corinne Spiegel of Lake Oswego said it's even meant her developmentally disabled adult son has had to turn away cash gifts from relatives because they would jeopardize his benefits.

"I tell my other three children it's really important that they save money for their future,” she said.

Oregon lawmakers created the new savings program for people with disabilities after a 2014 federal law paved the way for states to act. The money in each account will not count against asset limits for state or federal benefit programs.

The state is unrolling the so-called "Oregon ABLE Savings Plan" through a series of events being held around the state in early December. The ABLE acronym stands for "Achieving a Better Life Experience" and was part of the federal legislation that enabled the new programs.

According to the ABLE National Resource Center, Oregon will become the sixth state with an active program. Other states have programs in the development stage, including Washington.

According to the Oregon 529 Savings Network, which will administer the new accounts, the money in ABLE Savings Plans can be used on disability-related expenses, including housing, education, and medical expenses. The accounts are open to anyone who experienced an onset of disability prior to their 26th birthday.

For Spiegel, the new accounts mean parents of disabled Oregonians will have a new tool to help their children become financially stable.

"Raising an individual with significant disability is not just emotionally exhausting. It's exhausting financially," she said.