A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued today for a program manager for the new Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program created by the 2015 Nebraska Legislature, said State Treasurer Don Stenberg, who, by law, is Trustee of the Nebraska ABLE program.
Treasurer Stenberg and the Nebraska Investment Council are seeking proposals from qualified financial services companies to provide investment and administrative services, customer service, and marketing services for the Nebraska ABLE program. Questions from potential bidders are due July 30. A pre-proposal conference will be Aug. 4 in the State Capitol, and proposals are due Sept. 10.
Stenberg said those dates are subject to change depending on circumstances outside the state’s control, such as the ongoing work on the proposed federal regulations for ABLE programs across the nation and other national developments.
“Our goal is to launch the Nebraska ABLE program as soon as possible in 2016. We have established an ambitious timetable to meet that goal, and our plan is to make the ABLE program available to individuals with disabilities as quickly as we can. At the same time, we want to be sure we are doing it right and building a program that will address the unique needs of our ABLE account owners, keeping in mind convenience, ease of use, and cost,” Stenberg said.
The ABLE program will allow Nebraskans with certain disabilities to create tax-advantaged ABLE savings accounts to use to pay for qualified disability-related expenses, similar to state-sponsored college savings programs like the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST), a division of the State Treasurer’s Office. While the program will be administered by the Treasurer’s Office, the Nebraska Investment Council will have final authority over investment options and investments.
In December 2014, Congress enacted Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code, allowing for a tax-favored savings program for eligible individuals with disabilities to be used to pay qualified disability-related expenses. Earlier this year, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB591, sponsored by Sen. Kate Bolz, to create the Nebraska ABLE program and to make the State Treasurer the Trustee. Both the federal and state legislation were modeled on the state-sponsored 529 College Savings program, which in Nebraska is administered by the State Treasurer.
Stenberg said the RFP contemplates the possibility of other states contracting with Nebraska to manage the ABLE program for them.
“We believe we are well positioned to contract with other states to provide the ABLE program for them, and our state law allows for those contractual relationships,” Stenberg said. “We believe we are in a good position to do that because we expect to be one of the first states to offer the ABLE program to its residents and because of our track record offering an excellent college savings program to account owners not only in Nebraska, but in all 50 states,” Stenberg said.
Stenberg said he is continuing to monitor responses to proposed regulations issued in June by the U.S. Treasury Department regarding the ABLE program and to work with other State Treasurers and interested parties to seek changes in the regulations. He said the regulations, as proposed, are unwieldy both for ABLE account owners and for states administering the programs.
Comments regarding the proposed regulations are due to the U.S. Treasury by Sept. 21.
“I remain concerned that the federal regulations, as proposed, will create an unnecessary paperwork burden on individuals with disabilities who own ABLE savings accounts and an unnecessary administrative burden on states. Those unnecessary requirements ultimately will increase the costs for ABLE account owners,” Stenberg said.
“In addition, I am concerned that the regulations, as written, may discourage potential bidders from submitting proposals in response to the RFP. Nevertheless, I am committed to moving forward on development of the ABLE program for Nebraskans and possibly for other states and to keeping costs for both the account owners and the state foremost in mind,” he said.
A copy of the RFP can be accessed at https://treasurer.nebraska.gov/csp/able/.