HB 1283 — Child in Need of Assistance – Guardianship by Local Department – ABLE Accounts

Committee: House Judiciary

Position: Support

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) offers this supporting testimony with t to House Bill 1283. The Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 1283 authorizes a local department of social services that has been granted certain guardianship over a child in need of assistance to have control over the property of the child for the purpose of establishing a certain ABLE account on behalf of the child addressing the specific needs of children in need of assistance (CINA).

ABLE accounts allow eligible individuals to build savings to pay for qualified disability expenses, such as medical and dental care, education, housing, transportation, obtaining and maintaining employment, assistive technology and community based supports. The ABLE Act, modeled after the college savings program (529 accounts), helps people with disabilities meet their needs in the community without losing essential benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid, the Supplemental Security Income program, and other sources.

Eligibility for public benefits like SSI, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid require meeting a means or resource test that limits eligibility by requiring individuals to report more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds, and other items of significant value. ABLE savings accounts allow eligible individuals and their families to save money without largely affecting their eligibility for SSI, Medicaid and other public benefits.

Expanding who can set up ABLE accounts on behalf of the child in accordance with Title 18, Subtitle 19C of the Education Article will help each CINA achieve a better life experience by protecting and planning for their future. Making smart financial decisions by having access to programs like ABLE are key to maximizing savings and working to achieve financial goals creating a positive ripple effect on all other aspects of life.

It is for these reasons we urge a favorable report on House Bill 1283. Thank you for your consideration.