MiABLE is a savings program for people with disabilities that gives Michigan families “peace of mind” because it allows for individuals and families to set up a savings fund that will help individuals with disabilities in maintaining health, independence, and quality of life.
Carrie and Tony Wozny, who live in Leelanau County, have learned about MiABLE and were happy to hear about the benefits.
Carrie and Tony Wozny have a daughter Lea, 20, who was born with Down syndrome. Although they have not yet opened a MiABLE account, they take comfort in knowing it’s an option. Having a MiABLE account will allow Lea to accumulate savings to pay for a wide range of living expenses she will encounter as she becomes more independent.
“We’re older parents, and we really battle with what’s going to happen with Lea,” said Carrie Wozny, 60. “We’re hoping she can get a job to become self-sufficient, and MiABLE could help her do that. We want her to feel like she’s part of this community where she grew up.”
Lea earned her certificate of completion in 2019 from Traverse City West High School, where she continues to attend the Life Skills Center for students with impairments ages 16-26.
Lea doesn’t want her disability to stand in the way of living a fulfilling life and exercising independence. She hopes to get a job soon, possibly at a downtown Traverse City shop that makes soaps and lotions. Lea enjoyed it when she spent four weeks in a work experience program there.
Unfortunately, Lea’s employment plans were put on hold because of COVID. While she waits for things to settle, she is continuing her education at the Life Skills Center (virtually).
“Although she enjoys meeting with her classmates and teacher online, she looks forward to the day when everyone can go back to face-to-face school, and then she will pursue her goal of looking for employment,” her mother said.
Lea, also dreams of someday taking the big step of moving out of her parents’ house and into a condo with some friends. But for Lea to be out on her own, she’ll need a job as well as savings to pay for additional expenses that arise, her parents said.
That’s how MiABLE can help. MiABLE can provide the safety net of a savings account that goes above and beyond the public benefits that individuals with disabilities receive. And individuals with disabilities can’t receive public benefits if they have more than $2,000 in assets. MiABLE doesn’t affect one’s eligibility for Supplemental Security Income and other government assistance – provided the account balance doesn’t exceed $100,000.
For Lea to fulfill her dream and be living on her own, she will need to have a safety net of savings. Having a $2,000 limit on her savings account would be quite restrictive and wouldn’t suit her situation if she gets a job and moves into a condo with friends.
“Now that she’s 20, it’s time to be an adult,” Carrie Wozny said. “Work is an important thing that we look at as part of that, and with MiABLE, we finally saw a way to get past that $2,000 limit in a savings account. It’s really given us peace of mind.”
Just like other investments, MiABLE account holders can choose among investment options that range from conservative to aggressive. Savings grow tax-free and there is a Michigan tax deduction on contributions. Withdrawals are also not taxed if used for qualified expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management, quality of life improvements, legal fees and funeral or burial expenses.
R. Scott de Varona, MiABLE program director for the Michigan Department of Treasury, noted that in general, individuals who became disabled or blind before age 26 and are entitled to SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance qualify as MiABLE account beneficiaries.
“As long as the person meets those criteria, they can have a MiABLE account at any age, meaning that younger beneficiaries have the advantage of time for their investments to grow,” he said, adding that anyone – including other family members and friends – can contribute to a MiABLE account.
Contributions are limited to $15,000 per year. However, if a beneficiary is employed – as Lea hopes to be – they can contribute an additional $12,760 a year.
If you or anyone you know has a family member with a disability, please share this information. It’s comforting to know there is an option like this out there so that families can feel better and more confident about the “safety net” they can create for their loved one.
More information about MiABLE is available at miable.org.