My oldest, Cole, was born with Down syndrome. He has given me a whole new passion and purpose to be an ability advocate. Because of Cole, I am a better legislator.
I’m excited that in tax reform, my ABLE to Work provisions were signed into law. This legislation is helping people with disabilities explore the workforce and find a job that affirms their dignity and empowers them to reach their full potential.
We live in an amazing time in history where we are not bound by the conditions of our birth. This Down Syndrome Awareness Month, let’s come together and celebrate the potential of every person in this country.
Posted by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Wednesday, October 3, 2018
For those of you who don’t know our family’s story, my oldest, Cole, is 11 years old. Like many boys his age, he plays basketball and other sports. He’s also in the Cub Scouts. Cole finds joy in learning, loves school, and is great at math. He is a wonderful big brother to his two younger sisters, Grace and Brynn.
Cole has Down syndrome, and like everyone else, he has dreams and aspirations. I love how excited he gets when we talk about his passions and the future. He wants to go to college and find a career. He often says he wants to be “…just like Dad and go into the Navy.”
Because of Cole, I’ve connected with a whole new purpose in my life, and today I am a proud ability advocate. I say ability advocate because I believe it is so important to focus on what every person has to offer–not their limitations. For me, ensuring those who are part of the disability community have every possible opportunity to live happy, healthy, and productive lives is not just good policy, it’s personal.
This month I’ve been celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month, to honor the many people, like Cole, who bring so much joy and happiness to the world.
I’m marking this important month by reflecting on all the big wins for the disabilities community this past year. For example, I led the effort to include provisions important to those with disabilities in tax reform, and today I’m proud to say we’re knocking down barriers that often trap people with disabilities in poverty. Thanks to months of hard work, I’m pleased to report that the employment rate for people with disabilities has jumped sharply over the last two months.
Tax reform is also building on the success of my Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act that created tax-free savings accounts for job training, education, and disability-related expenses. By increasing annual contribution limits and allowing rollovers from 529 savings accounts, ABLE accounts are now more flexible and accessible to those who need them.
My ABLE to Work Act, which was signed into law in tax reform, makes it easier for people with disabilities to explore the workforce and save more of what they earn. More specifically, thanks to my legislation, an ABLE beneficiary who works and receives an income can save up to the Federal Poverty Level in addition to their annual contribution limit of $14,000. As a result, ABLE accounts are helping people with disabilities find an internship, start a new job, or even run their own businesses! The inclusion of my ABLE to Work Act in tax reform marks an exciting new chapter for the disabilities community.
A job means so much more than a paycheck, it’s a foundation for a better life. That’s why it’s so important to keep working to unleash the full potential of people living with disabilities and continue building on the progress we have already made. That’s why I made sure tax reform was written with people with disabilities in mind.
That’s not all. My ABLE Financial Planning Act was also signed into law last year and allows rollovers from a 529 account. This means that individuals who may have been saving for their child’s college tuition can now roll over up to the maximum contribution each year until the 529 account has been depleted. This adjustment empowers people with disabilities at every stage of their life, and it helps them invest in their futures, pay for medical expenses, and look for a job. It can even help them cover the cost of getting to work when they find a job, which is a game changer for so many.
This month also marks the first anniversary of the bipartisan Disability Employment Working Group I started with a number of my Democrat and Republican colleagues. Our goal is to find real solutions that help individuals with disabilities find meaningful work in our community and escape the cycle of poverty. We meet on a regular basis to identify regulations that act as barriers to entry for those with disabilities, and identify legislative changes that can encourage them to enter the workforce and unleash their full potential.
These are just a few of the many ways I’m celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Month. I know there’s much work to be done in the future. However, when we provide opportunities for people–no matter their walk of life–and unleash their full potential, there’s no telling what we can accomplish together.