WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced Benjamin Wright, a father, small business owner and advocate from Wilmington, N.C, at a Senate Aging Committee hearing titled, “Supporting Economic Stability and Self-Sufficiency as Americans with Disabilities and their Families Age.”
Ben and his wife, Amy, opened Bitty & Beau’s Coffee in 2016, named after their two youngest children who have Down syndrome. Today, Bitty & Beau’s employs more than 70 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities across three locations. Mr. and Mrs. Wright were named one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of the Year in 2017. Mr. Wright spoke to the Committee about the importance of reducing the stigma that prevents employers from hiring Americans with disabilities.
Senator Burr was the lead author of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, signed into law in 2014, which allows families who have a child with a disability to save for their long-term care through tax-preferred savings accounts. In December 2017, several provisions were included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to improve upon the ABLE Act. These improvements allow disabled Americans who work and earn income to contribute more to their ABLE account and allow savings in 529 college saving plans to be rolled over into ABLE accounts.
Excerpts from Senator Burr’s Introduction:
“Some have called the ABLE Act the most significant piece of legislation affecting the disabled since the passage of the American Disability Act almost 30 years ago. Senator [Bob] Casey and I got involved in an effort to pass ABLE over 10 years ago. This has been one of the toughest pieces of legislation that made the most common sense of anything I have tackled in the time I have been here.
“The amount of families that are impacted - not just parents; grandparents, relatives - who can now have the comfort of knowing that a child that has a fruitful life in front of them also has the security, the nest egg, to make sure they have whatever they need regardless of what they run into.
“…Ben continues to raise awareness and educate families on the benefits of opening an [ABLE] account. I think it’s safe to say that the ABLE Act has begun to change the way we think of federal benefits for Americans with disabilities, just as Ben and his wife have begun to change the way people view Americans with disabilities.”
Excerpts from Senator Burr’s Questioning:
“I think we’ve learned a lot today. We’ve learned the majority of those with disabilities really want to work, but for decades for some of them they’ve been penalized to do it. But now we’re beginning to change that stigma.
“…It’s amazing to me that with a high school counselor every student graduating knows about the student loan program, but every disabled student in that school probably isn’t told about an ABLE account.
“… When I leave this institution and am asked what was the most important legislation you did in your congressional career, I don’t think there’s any question, in my case it would be the ABLE Act… It affects the folks that had the least amount of voice, and it’s the community really that can be benefitted for life in what we do.”