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ABLE Act Helps People with Disabilities Save

DERRY TOWNSHIP — The governor signed a bill intended to help people with disabilities save for future expenses. The effort provides tax-free savings accou...

DERRY TOWNSHIP -- The governor signed a bill intended to help people with disabilities save for future expenses.

The effort provides tax-free savings accounts for folks with disabilities and their families.

Until now, someone with a disability couldn't have more than $2,000 in savings without losing out on tens of thousands in government benefits. Families had a hard time planning for the future for someone with disabilities.

The Pennsylvania Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (PA ABLE) is designed to change that.

A 6-year-old boy with Down syndrome gave Governor Tom Wolf a hug as he signed the ABLE Act into law during a ceremony in Hershey Monday.

"Families can start saving pre-tax to make sure they have the ability to care for their children when they get to age when the school system stops caring for them, and they don't have to go into an institution," Wolf said.

"Why was it that for so many years we allowed families to save for college--higher education, and did not allow them or even penalized them for saving for a disability? It made no sense," said Sen. Bob Casey, (D) Pennsylvania.

For nearly a decade, Casey has been trying to make the ABLE Act a law. While it was just signed, it actually passed in Harrisburg on April 13, on the senator's birthday.

For twins Shane and Wyatt Waksmunski and their family from Carbon County, this moment will change their future.

"That [my brothers] will grow up like a normal person. That they will be just like us," said Jesse Waksmunski.

Supporters of the ABLE Act believe the law will give people with disabilities a chance at that. It allows families to save up to $14,000 a year for each person with a disability without disqualifying them from government-paid medical and social services.

"The thought prior to today: maybe Shane and Wyatt are going to live with us forever. This bill will now provide a resource that maybe they can save and get out on their own," said their father Eric Waksmunski.

For the Waksmunski family from the Lehighton area, it means their twins,  who each have Down syndrome, may have a future as filled with opportunity as anyone else.

"I think it's going to be awesome for little kids to save for their future."

Sara Wolff of Moscow shows us what that future could be. She has Down syndrome, but has worked as a law clerk in Scranton for more than a decade.

She lives with her father, but wants to move out on her own.

Before the ABLE Act, she couldn't save enough to move out without losing the benefits she would never be able to afford on her own.

"I'm just excited to finally save money and maybe hopefully after 14 years finally get a raise," she said.

It wasn't that Sara Wolff was never offered a raise. She couldn't accept it without losing her disability services.

When the law actually goes into effect by the end of the year, she can take any raise offered and start planning a more independent life.