Senate Advances Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Reauthorization Leaving Out Important Provisions for Students with Disabilities

Last week, the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ECAA; S. 1177) and replacing No Child Left Behind.  A number of key amendments that The Arc opposed were either defeated or the Senate did not vote on them.  For example, the Scott Amendment (S.A. 2132) would have allowed Title I funds to follow students to private schools; private schools would continue to be exempt from accountability for the success of students.  The amendment was defeated by a vote of 45-51.  Unfortunately, several important amendments that The Arc supported were defeated, including:

  • The Casey Amendment (A. 2242) would have provided universal access to pre-school and require settings that were inclusive for children with disabilities. The Senate defeated this amendment on a vote of 45-52.
  • The Murphy Amendment (A. 2241) would have required action when schools underperform.  Specifically, schools where any sub-group of students (such as students with disabilities) failed to meet state-determined goals would have received locally-designed interventions and supports.  Absent this provision, no action is required when sub-groups of students fail to meet goals.  The Senate defeated this amendment on a vote of 43-54.
  • The Student Non-Discrimination Act (A. 2093; Franken (D-MA)) would have prohibited discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  The Arc supported this amendment to protect all students, including students with disabilities, from discrimination and bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  This amendment was defeated by a vote of 52 to 45 (60 votes were required).

For the bill to become law, the House and Senate will first have to form a conference committee and reconcile the difference between their two bills.  Both chambers must then approve the new version, before it can reach the President’s desk.

House Holds Hearing, Releases Discussion Draft Legislation on Reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing on “Welfare Reform Proposals,” specifically involving the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Witnesses were: Kristen Cox, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, State of Utah; Lt. Colonel David Kelly, Secretary of Program, Salvation Army; Boyd Brown, Area Director, Employment and Training, Goodwill Easter Seals Minnesota; LaDonna Pavetti, Vice President for Family Income Support Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; and Grant Collins, Senior Vice President, Workforce Development and Executive Director, WeCARE Region II, FedCap. The Committee has also released a discussion draft of legislation to reauthorize TANF. Visit the Committee website to review written testimony and to access archived video of the hearing.

White House Issues Report on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Last week, the White House released a report, Social Security Disability Insurance: A Lifeline for Millions of American Workers and Their Families. The report describes how SSDI insures nearly all American workers and their families, the important role that benefits play in the lives of nearly 11 million current beneficiaries, changes in SSDI over time, and action needed to protect workers and ensure SSDI solvency. As noted in the report: “In 2016, SSDI beneficiaries could face a deep and abrupt 19 percent reduction in their disability insurance benefits if lawmakers fail to act to remedy a long-projected shortfall in the program’s finances.” President Obama has recommended rebalancing existing Social Security payroll taxes to ensure SSDI’s solvency through 2033 (on an even path with the rest of the Social Security system). The Arc strongly supports this common-sense solution, which Congress has taken numerous times in the past. Visit the White House web site to view the full report.

CMS Releases New Report on Medicaid Expenditures for Long-Term Services and Supports; Webinar Scheduled for July 31

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2013 Medicaid Expenditures for Long-Term Services and Supports Report. This report documents progress the Medicaid program has made to promote community living for older adults and people with disabilities.  CMS and Truven Health will host a webinar to discuss the report findings Friday, July 31, from 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT).  To register, click here.

Department of Justice Releases Report on Service Animals and the ADA

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a technical assistance document, Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. The document includes frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) that protect the rights of individuals and their service animals. As noted by the DOJ, it is as a follow-up to the DOJ’s 2011 guidance on Service Animals and the Revised ADA Requirements, and should be read in conjunction with the 2011 document.

U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Releases New Guidance on SSI/SSDI Benefits for People Experiencing Homelessness

Last week, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), in collaboration with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Veterans Administration, published Key Strategies for Connecting People Experiencing Homelessness to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits. The report outlines several approaches including: assisting people experiencing homelessness with the SSI/SSDI application process; coordinating with SSA field offices, community organizations, and other federal agencies; coordinating with other benefits and entitlements; working with veterans and other special populations; and assisting SSI/SSDI beneficiaries post-entitlement. Visit the USICH web site to read the full report.

New ABLE Account Survey Offered

The ABLE National Resource Center has developed a survey to better understand how many individuals might be eligible for ABLE accounts and how a potential beneficiary may use an ABLE account to save for disability related expenses.  The results will be analyzed by the ABLE National Resource Center and distributed to its members and other relevant stakeholders.  The Arc encourages advocates to distribute the survey widely through social media, email, and newsletters.  It is hoped that all responses will be submitted by August 3rd, though distribution is still encouraged through the end of August. To participate in the survey, please click here.  If you have any questions, please contact Chris Rodriguez at the National Disability Institute.

House to Hold Hearing on Reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

On Wednesday, July 15, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources will hold a hearing on “Welfare Reform Proposals,” specifically involving the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Visit the Committee website for more information and to access live video the day of the hearing.

House Holds Hearing on Social Security Disability Insurance Work Incentives

Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on “Promoting Opportunity for Disability Insurance Beneficiaries.” Witnesses were Mike Zelley, President, The Disability Network, Flint, Michigan; James Smith, Budget and Policy Manager, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Vermont Agency of Human Services, Burlington, Vermont; Jill Houghton, Executive Director, US Business Leadership Network; John Kregel, Ed.D., Professor, Special Education and Disability Policy, Virginia Commonwealth University; and Paul N. Van de Water, Ph.D., Senior Fellow and Director of Policy Futures, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Visit the Committee web site to review testimony and archived video.

Department of Housing and Urban Development Issues New Regulation to Address Barriers to Fair Housing

Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a new fair housing regulation aimed at promoting diverse, inclusive communities and overcoming the negative effects of segregation. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and familial status. HUD’s new regulation is designed to help states and local jurisdictions comply with their existing obligations to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a key provision of the Fair Housing Act. As noted by HUD, the new rule “creates a streamlined Assessment of Fair Housing planning process, which will help communities analyze challenges to fair housing choice and establish their own goals and priorities to address the fair housing barriers in their community.”