© 2024 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Florida Launches Savings Program For People With Unique Abilities

Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero)
Nick Evans

Floridians with unique abilities now have access to tax free savings plans thanks to a program that launched July 1.  ABLE accounts are based on college savings plans that have been around since the 1990s.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) says up until this month, many Floridians with unique abilities faced a pretty awful choice: rely on government assistance or enter the workforce and hope they can be self-sufficient.  That’s because assistance comes with significant income restrictions.

“Now thanks to ABLE United,” Rodrigues says, “I know that my son will have the opportunity to pursue his potential and to do his very best with the full knowledge that if he’s successful that’s great, and if he’s not successful at achieving independence, he won’t be punished for trying.”

Rodrigues passed Florida’s ABLE legislation last year—establishing a tax free savings program modelled on similar plans for college tuition.  Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) also has a son with unique abilities and he’s made the issue a central plank of his term in office.

“It is absolutely the cornerstone for the state of Florida,” Gardiner says.  “If we are going to be a leader where we talk about that someone—everyone—has the ability and the dream to succeed, we cannot let government limit that opportunity because of the benefits that they receive.”

Congress approved the idea in 2014, but states have to develop their own plans for implementation.  Florida joined all but a handful of states by developing a framework last year.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.