ABLE Programs are not in jeopardy. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Richard Burr, Senator Bob Casey, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Representative Pete Sessions, former Representative Ander Crenshaw, and so many others, ABLE accounts across the nation are growing and already providing benefits to many thousands of individuals with disabilities across the country.
NAST believes ABLE accounts will continue to grow providing greater independence for eligible people with disabilities. NAST will continue to work with stakeholders to maximize participation, and looks forward to working with lawmakers to make ABLE accounts accessible to people who acquire disability after age 26, along with other enhancements that will strengthen ABLE. A link to the NAST ABLE Committee’s specific recommendations is available here.
NJ ABLE gives people with disabilities as way to ‘save for vital day-to-day expenses,’ without imperiling Medicaid coverage, similar programs
Disabled people in New Jersey will have a new financial tool to help them save money to pay for childcare, transportation, assistive technology, and other necessary expenses, thanks to a program state officials plan to announce today.
The New Jersey Department of Human Services will launch a tax-free savings program that will allow qualified individuals to collect funds to cover costs related to their disability, without preventing them from qualifying for Medicaid and other state and federal social-service programs with strict income limits, according to information provided to NJ Spotlight in advance. The program — called NJ ABLE, for Achieving a Better Life Experience — is based on a federal initiative now underway in three-dozen states.
Many disabled individuals and their families depend on a wide variety of public benefits — including Medicaid, food stamps or SNAP, and Social Security — most of which involve an income ceiling. These programs also require participants to report savings and other assets worth more than $2,000, according to the ABLE National Resource Center. That can make it hard to amass the capital needed to pay for services not covered by insurance or government programs.
“This is an exciting new program for New Jersey that gives individuals with disabilities and their families the opportunity to improve their financial security,” DHS Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “They deserve the peace of mind that comes with being able to save for vital day-to-day expenses. Individuals with disabilities can do anything — and NJ ABLE is now another tool to help them live full and independent lives.”
U.S. municipal bond market trading has been relatively stable over the last 11 years despite a drop in the number of dealers and the amount of the debt kept in dealers’ inventories, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) said on Tuesday.
The self-regulator of the $3.8 trillion market where states, cities, schools, hospitals and other issuers sell debt said its first-ever report analyzing changes and trends in dealers’ customer trading activity found dealer participation became less-concentrated, but still “robust.”
The number of registered municipal securities dealers fell to 1,346 last year from 1,967 in 2009, while muni bonds held by dealers dropped by about 67 percent since 2006, according to the report.
“Our analysis shows that most dealers that have exited the market provided little liquidity and participated in very few trades – typically fewer than 10 trades in a year,” said MSRB Director of Research Marcelo Vieira in a statement.
After two straight years of lackluster revenue growth, state finances are on the upswing thanks in large part to a stable economy and a one-time boost from December’s federal tax overhaul.
As fiscal 2018 comes to a close on June 30 in most states, total revenue growth for the year is estimated at 4.9 percent. That’s the best year since 2015, according to the latest state fiscal survey from the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO).
The numbers bear that out: Only nine states have been forced to make mid-year budget cuts compared with a whopping 22 last year. Cuts totaled just $830 million in fiscal 2018; a year ago, states had to cut $3.5 billion to balance budgets. And 19 states have increased spending this year to the tune of $1.6 billion, which boosted total spending growth by 3.4 percent or to $835 billion.
Much of the better-than-expected performance is being credited to a continually improving economy and booming stock market. Corporate income tax revenues posted a more than 3 percent increase after two straight years of declines.
States also saw a spike in personal income tax collections as many high-income taxpayers rushed to take advantage of expiring federal tax breaks under the December overhaul. “States are still working to untangle and better understand these trends and the impact of the federal tax law on their revenues,” the NASBO survey reported.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo — Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt today praised the passage of legislation that strengthens penalties relating to abuse of the state’s Unclaimed Property program.
Senate Bill 644, sponsored by Senator Mike Cunningham and handled by Representative Donna Pfautsch in the House, makes it a crime for an heirfinder to enter into an agreement to help claim Unclaimed Property for compensation without first registering with the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office. The bill also gives the State Treasurer greater flexibility to enforce provisions relating to heirfinder registration.
“I want to thank Senator Cunningham and Representative Pfautsch for working hard to get this important legislation over the finish line,” Schmitt said. “Senate Bill 644 will give us another tool to ensure Missouri taxpayers and Unclaimed Property owners are protected against fraud and abuse.”
Individuals, families, small businesses and others can check to see if they have Unclaimed Property on ShowMeMoney.com. They can also sign up to get email notifications when new assets come in matching their information and send notifications to family and friends to let them know about money being held in their name.
Treasurer Schmitt currently protects close to $1 billion in Unclaimed Property for the state of Missouri. One in ten Missourians have Unclaimed Property and the average return is around $300.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo — Hundreds of Missourians with disabilities and their families have accumulated a combined total of over $2.2 million in savings for their long-term needs through the [moable.com]MO ABLE program since it was launched by State Treasurer Eric Schmitt one year ago this week.
MO ABLE empowers people with disabilities to save and invest through tax-free savings accounts without losing eligibility for federal programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The program is made possible by the Missouri Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2015 – legislation championed by Treasurer Schmitt during his time in the Missouri State Senate.
“MO ABLE has made a profound difference in the lives of Missourians with disabilities and their families by opening new doors to financial security,” Schmitt said. “My son, Stephen, faces the challenge of living with several disabilities, so I know firsthand the impact this program can have on those who face similar struggles. MO ABLE is about providing financial empowerment and peace of mind to some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Before the launch of MO ABLE, individuals with disabilities were only allowed a maximum of $2,000 in savings before losing access to certain benefits and services. This restriction left families without the flexibility they needed to make smart financial decisions when it came to the long-term care of their loved ones.
“One big concern I have had with my son who has disabilities is his financial security, especially once my husband and I have passed away,” said Robyn Schelp of Columbia, who has a MO ABLE account for her son. “Thanks to the MO ABLE account, he will have a chance to have financial security and independence while still getting the services he needs to be successful as an adult with disabilities.”
MO ABLE has provided families of individuals with disabilities significant peace of mind by giving them a viable option for ensuring their needs are taken care of long after their guardians have passed.
“It has given me confidence in knowing that my two kids with Down Syndrome can save for their futures,” said Regina Bradley, a MO ABLE program participant who lives in Buffalo. “It will allow them to have a comfortable life and reliable transportation when they are ready to be independent.”
Even with MO ABLE’s emergence as one of the top performing state-based plans in the nation, Treasurer Schmitt has continued working toward improving the program. Last year, he launched the MO ABLE Disability Savings Coalition, consisting of government entities, resource centers and advocacy organizations, to raise awareness of the program. The Coalition has served as an important resource for gathering feedback about the functionality of the program and generating ideas for future policy changes.
Schmitt joined forces with Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs last year to call on federal lawmakers to increase the amount of money earned at a job that an individual with a disability can save and invest in an ABLE account. Those changes, known as ABLE to Work, were passed by Congress in December as part of the federal tax reform package.
Schmitt has also partnered with State Senator Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) and State Representative Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City) to introduce legislation that would improve Missouri’s program by allowing for greater flexibility between MOST 529 plans and MO ABLE accounts.
“We’re proud to have one of the lowest cost and highest quality ABLE programs in the nation, but our work hasn’t stopped there,” Schmitt said. “We are continually looking for ways to improve, strengthen and expand MO ABLE so that it can be as useful as possible to those who choose to participate.”
Missourians who contribute to MO ABLE accounts are eligible for a tax deduction of up to $8,000 or $16,000 if married and filing jointly. Earnings in MO ABLE accounts are not subject to income tax, so long as funds are spent on qualified disability expenses.
Eligible individuals can learn more and sign up for an account at www.moable.com. An initial contribution of at least $50 is required in order to set up an account.
Lately, Americans are barraged with news stories about exciting developments in transportation technology or personal mobility that match our on-demand, life-at-our-fingertips society. Smart cities that monitor vehicle traffic congestion, or driverless cars and trucks that will convey people and goods to their destination on time — these are very compelling.
Yet these stories are missing a major fact: the underlying infrastructure needed to make such advancements in modernization possible is not getting congressional support needed to connect rubber and road, so to speak.
Senior representatives from the nation’s cement and concrete companies — the North American Concrete Alliance — are here this week to help make the connection for Congress: you won’t have strong, safe and long-lasting transportation networks and cities without taking action on infrastructure.
NACA comprises 12 cement- and concrete-related organizations that collectively represent 600,000 employees and contribute $100 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
America’s cement and concrete industry are joining forces to urge Congress to take action on several fronts. We will be pressing lawmakers to act now — not next year, not in another Congress. How can a below-average national highway system, for example, rise to meet the vision for even greater transportation networks of tomorrow?
The cement and concrete industry is asking Congress to consider several key elements as part of any legislative approach that addresses infrastructure renewal.
The first is funding. Congress should pass a long-term, robust and sustainable funding mechanism that addresses Highway Trust Fund shortfalls, and allows for much-needed increases in highways and mass-transportation investments. Currently, lawmakers pay for highway upkeep through the fund, which is chronically under-resourced. All funding mechanisms should be on the table, including a fuel tax increase, a freight charge, a vehicle-miles-traveled tax and sales tax. Financing mechanisms, such as preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds and lifting the cap on private activity bonds, should also be considered.
The second priority shifts from how you fund infrastructure to how you spend those funds. Our industry is seeking renewed competition for infrastructure projects to promote the best use of limited taxpayer dollars. To accomplish this,Congress should require the use of life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) for infrastructure projects using federal taxpayer dollars. LCCA levels the playing field among project construction materials and enables competition in the marketplace. It is a long-proven, and widely supported process that helps planners, engineers and policy makers understand the full cost of a project over its lifetime, which results in greater accuracy, better performance and lower costs.
Christine Stoll is Executive Director of IDeal—Idaho’s 529 College Savings Program.
Recently, the Brookings Institute released a study on student loan debt that revealed some troubling trends. In Idaho, it’s crucial that we understand what mounting bad news around student loan debt means for the college-going culture we’re trying to foster and look for ways to keep our momentum from stalling.
The Brookings study showed that high-dollar borrowers are repaying their loans more slowly than in the past, accumulating interest without chipping away at the principal balance. Small-balance borrowers are in trouble too: They account for a majority of loans in default.
An important question for us all to ponder is, “How likely is it that people who struggle to pay back their student loans will encourage their own children down the path to college?” According to Pew Research Center, only half of American college graduates aged 25-39 with student debt believe the benefits of higher education outweigh the costs.
Of course, studies by organizations like the New York Fed and Georgetown University show that higher education remains an excellent investment — college graduates earn far more over a lifetime than high school grads — but perceptions and personal experience matter.
Currently, Idaho ranks fairly low — 30th of 51 — in student loan default rates, which is good news. Idaho’s schools are relatively affordable and offer a high-value education. Still, approximately 198,000 Idahoans hold student loan debt. The Institute for College Access and Success estimates that Idaho’s four-year college graduates leave school with an average of $27,639 in loans.
Widespread reliance on borrowing cannot become the status quo if we wish to sustain the work being done across our state to improve college-going rates. Idaho’s work to fund more scholarships is a meaningful and necessary first step. Frank discussions about the price tag of higher education should take place, too. Long term, however, families need a financial tool over which they have more direct control.
State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. and the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission joined Hillsboro Elementary/Middle School in Leiper’s Fork on Monday to celebrate Financial Literacy Month.
Math teacher Cody Hawk’s 5th grade students at Hillsboro have recently launched Vault – Understanding Money, a web-based financial education platform made available to all Tennessee K-8 schools by the the Financial Literacy Commission. More than 19,000 students across the state have been engaged through the Vault program thus far.
“Our goal is to reach every K-8 classroom across the state,” said Lillard, who also serves as board chairman for the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission. “We believe that Tennessee should lead the nation in financial literacy education.”
Lillard met with Hawk’s 5th grade class while they completed interactive modules through the Vault program and spoke with the students about the importance of learning about money. He then led them in a game of “needs vs. wants,” where students identified whether items like a kitchen stove, movie theater popcorn, and trendy tennis shoes were considered a “need” or “want.”
During the event, EverFi, an online education company that created Vault, also presented Treasurer Lillard with their 2018 Financial Capability Innovation Award, celebrating his impact on financial literacy in Tennessee.
The Commission recently extended its financial empowerment tools to adults with the launch of the Financial Empowerment Resource Library. This web-based education tool covers financial topics such as Budgeting, Building Emergency Savings, Credit Scores and Reports, Home Ownership, Checking Accounts, and Retirement. Each short, interactive module takes 2-7 minutes to complete and provides tips on how to develop smart financial habits in everyday life.
The Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that relies on donations from individuals and businesses for a majority of its funding.
Financial resources for children and adults are available at TNFLC.org.
National High School Personal Finance Competition to Be in Lincoln in May, Treasurer Stenberg Announces
Lincoln, Neb. (February 22, 2018) – High school students from across the United States will be in Lincoln May 11 to demonstrate their knowledge of economics and personal finance in the Personal Finance Challenge national competition, Nebraska State Treasurer Stenberg announced today at a news conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business.
Joining Treasurer Stenberg in making the announcement were Dr. Kathy Farrell, Dean of the College of Business, and Jennifer Davidson, president of the Nebraska Council on Economic Education, an independent, non-profit organization housed in the College of Business. Also attending the news conference was Kirk Kellner of Omaha, regional president of Wells Fargo, the signature corporate sponsor of the May 11 event.
This is the first time the annual competition will be in Lincoln. Activities will take place at the UNL College of Business. Previously the national competition, now in its eighth year, was in St. Louis or Kansas City.
“We are excited that this event will be coming to Lincoln this year,” Stenberg said.
Dean Farrell said the event will be an ideal opportunity to showcase the fine facilities and excellent educational offerings available at the College of Business and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Davidson said she expects students from as many as 25 states to travel to Lincoln to compete.
“Economics and personal finance concepts and tools are skills all students will need to be successful in life,” said Dean Farrell. “Understanding the importance of budgeting and of saving early to capitalize on compound interest truly changes financial outcomes for the future.”
“I am thrilled to partner with the Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office and Wells Fargo to make this event a reality. It has been over a year of conversation and is finally coming to fruition. Financial products are complicated, and more than ever before, people are required to be responsible for their own financial futures and retirement planning. An event like this is an exciting way to bring attention to the importance of personal finance education. To compete and win, students must learn and understand important personal finance topics and think about future financial planning,” Davidson said.
“It is a privilege for Wells Fargo to work with likeminded leaders and organizations in Nebraska to support programs such as the National Personal Finance Challenge,” said Kellner. “Wells Fargo prioritizes financial education, as a means to strengthen communities across our state and nation, providing people with information that will support good financial choices throughout life.”
Stenberg also announced that the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) has issued a resolution endorsing the National Personal Finance Challenge and encouraging students to prepare, study, and enter the competition. “The future of our national economy, our state economies, and the economic well-being of constituents in member states depends on a well-informed citizenry that understands basic financial and economic concepts and can navigate in an increasingly complex and diverse financial environment,” the resolution said.
“We are also happy to announce that this year the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust will award NEST 529 college savings accounts to winners in the national competition as well as our own state competition,” added Stenberg, Trustee of NEST. “First-place winners in the national competition – like in our state competition – will each receive a $2,000 NEST 529 college savings account. Second-place winners will each receive a $1,000 NEST 529 account, and third-place winners will each receive a $500 NEST 529 account.”
A family does not have to live in Nebraska to open a NEST account, Stenberg said. In fact, there are NEST account owners in every state in the United States. NEST accounts can be used at colleges, community colleges, and technical schools throughout the United States and in many countries abroad.
The teacher of each winning team, both at the state and national levels, will receive an iPad tablet, courtesy the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust.
“The State Treasurer’s relationship with the Council on Economic Education goes back five years to 2013 when my office launched a financial education initiative for high school students. One component was focused on offering an online financial education course to Nebraska schools at no charge to the students or the schools or the taxpayers. The second component was focused on helping exemplary students prepare for college by awarding NEST college savings accounts to winners in the Personal Financial Challenge,” Treasurer Stenberg explained.
“In the end, my goal was to help Nebraskans become aware of our excellent NEST 529 college savings program and to help Nebraska young people become financially responsible adults and contributing members of their communities and their state. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Assets in our NEST college savings program have grown to $4.8 billion, more than double what assets were when I took office in 2011. The total number of accounts has increased almost 40 percent since 2011. We now have 254,000 accounts nationwide, including 79,000 accounts in Nebraska,” he said
Stenberg said the Treasurer’s online financial education program, developed by EverFi of Washington, D.C., reached almost 10,000 students in 173 schools last school year. The average knowledge gain for high school students – based on pre- and post-testing – was 63 percent. So far this school year, the program has reached more than 7,500 students in 150 schools with more schools committed to using the program before the school year ends.
Spokespeople at the news conference also encouraged Nebraska high school students to get involved in the Personal Finance Challenge. Students must first take individual online tests in their home schools where their scores will be averaged for a team score. Online testing in Nebraska high schools will take place from March 26 to April 9. Teams with the highest combined scores will be invited to the face-to-face competition April 20 at the following locations:
At the face-to-face competition, each team will be given a hypothetical family scenario and asked to come up with a financial plan to be presented to a panel of judges. The first-place team in Nebraska will be chosen based on the face-to-face competition and the online team score. Last year’s winning team in Nebraska was Arthur County High School, which went on to be win third place in the national competition. More information about the Nebraska competition is available at nebraskacouncil.unl.edu.
About the Nebraska Council on Economic Education
The Nebraska Council on Economic Education is a 501 c(3) non-profit organization. It is supported by contributions of private citizens, businesses, civic groups, public agencies, and direct and in-kind support from the Universities that host and sponsor its Centers for Economic Education. Centers are located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Chadron State College, and Wayne State College. The mission is to act as a catalyst and lead a statewide initiative to advance economic and financial literacy. For more information, visit nebraskacouncil.unl.edu.
About NEST 529
The Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST 529) is a tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan and provides four plans to help make saving for college simple and affordable: NEST Direct College Savings Plan, the NEST Advisor College Savings Plan, the TD Ameritrade 529 College Savings Plan, and the State Farm College Savings Plan. The Nebraska State Treasurer serves as Program Trustee. First National Bank of Omaha serves as Program Manager, and all investments are approved by the Nebraska Investment Council. Families nationwide are saving for college using Nebraska’s 529 College Savings Plans, which have more than 254,000 accounts, including 79,000 in Nebraska. Visit NEST529.com and treasurer.nebraska.gov for more information.
Huge thank you and congratulations to our ABLE Committee Chairs @MOTreasurer @Eric_Schmitt and @ILTreasurer Mike Frerichs for their great job..