Treasurer hopes to expand number of tax-free accounts for Iowans with disabilities

DES MOINES — State Treasurer Roby Smith sees room for expansion of the I-ABLE program his office manages for Iowans with disabilities.

The money deposited in a tax-free I-ABLE account may be used to cover expenses related to a disability and the spending does not affect the person’s eligibility for government assistance programs like Medicaid or Social Security.

“There’s just a little over 2000 accounts,” Smith said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “I believe we can have a lot of growth there.”

U.S. Census data indicates nearly 400,000 Iowans have some sort of a disability. I-ABLE accounts can accrue interest and help Iowans living with a disability cover expenses like housing, transportation and job training as well as in-home support services.

“It’s an important tool and we’ve got to do more reaching out,” Smith said. “Part of my job is to travel the state to talk about I-ABLE.”

Smith recently made a presentation about I-ABLE in Pella and the treasurer’s office hosted a webinar with the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council this spring.

“We know that there’s a number of other agencies that deal with that population that could use it and help their lives,” Smith says, “and so we’re going to look to team up and sign up more people.”

An Iowan with a disability may open their own I-ABLE account or accounts may be opened by relatives, legal guardians or conservators who act on behalf of an Iowan with a disability. The yearly contribution limit is $17,000.

Forty-nine states now offer the program after congress established the tax-free benefit for an “Achieving a Better Life Experience: or ABLE accounts in 2014. Iowa lawmakers authorized the I-ABLE program here the following year.