The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation is currently accepting applications for its 2018 Public Policy Fellowship Program. Each year the Foundation brings professionals, family members, and persons experiencing disability to Washington, D.C. for a one-year, full-time, intensive immersion experience. Throughout their time in The District, fellows actively participate in public policy development in the offices of a Member of Congress, Congressional committee, or federal agency. This experience is a unique chance to understand the intersection of public policy, disability advocacy, and the political process. Please see the full announcement for more details. Applications will be accepted until December 15.
Join the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force and Justice in Aging for a free webinar on Monday, November 20, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. ET. The webinar will review proposed Congressional legislation to revive a disastrous old policy to prohibit the payment of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to people who are the subject of an arrest warrant for an alleged felony or an alleged violation of probation or parole. Learn about the proposal, who it would harm, and why it is bad policy. The webinar will feature introductory remarks by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and presentations by Dara Baldwin, National Disability Rights Network; Tracey Gronniger, Justice in Aging; and T.J. Sutcliffe, The Arc. Real-time captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided. This webinar is free, but registration is required. Click here to register.
Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or are looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find state information visit the health care website). During open enrollment a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available for people with low and moderate incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in the current plan. Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post. Open enrollment ends on December 15, 2017.
The full House is expected to vote on its bill Wednesday or Thursday of this week. The Senate Finance Committee begins mark-up on its bill today.
Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Mike Doyle (D-PA) reintroduced Kevin and Avonte’s Law (H.R. 4221) on November 2. This bipartisan legislation reauthorizes an existing federal program that assists in locating persons with dementia who wander from safe environments and expands the program to include new support for children with developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It allows Justice Department grants to be used to develop training and emergency protocols, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make local tracking technology programs available for individuals who may wander because of their condition. According to recent data, 27% of children with ASD, intellectual disability, and/or developmental delay are reported to wander from safe settings each year. In 2016, the House and the Senate both approved Kevin and Avonte’s Law. However, last minute changes attempting to address concerns over privacy and cost offsets required the legislation to return to the Senate. The Congress ended before another vote was held. The Arc supports this legislation and appreciates that the problematic provisions are not included in the new bill.
On November 7, Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Danny K. Davis (D-IL) introduced the Public Funds for Public Schools Act of 2017 (H.R. 4269). This bill addresses a problem that currently exists with tuition tax credits (TTCs) in select states. In 18 states, the TTCs are available to individuals who contribute to scholarship granting organizations or school voucher nonprofits. In 7 of these states (AL, AZ, FL, GA, MT, NV, and SC,) this tax credit is dollar for dollar. This means that in addition to receiving a full refund from their state, upper-income donors qualify for a federal tax deduction on the same donation, which allows them to turn a profit on their contributions. Each year, wealthy donors use TTCs to divert an estimated $1 billion in taxpayer funding to private and often unaccountable schools. The Arc supports this legislation as it disallows profiteering from donations to support private schools, which are not obligated to adhere to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The Senate Finance Committee released a description of its tax bill shortly after the House Ways and Means Committee approved its own bill on November 9. While The Arc is pleased to see that the Senate bill does not repeal the medical expense deduction that assists approximately 9 million Americans with high medical expenses to meet their needs, The Arc opposes the bill. The measure would substantially reduce revenue, paving the way for huge cuts in the programs people with disabilities rely on, and disproportionately benefits upper income earner and corporations. Click here to see a comparison between the House and Senate tax bills. See our shared principles for tax reform.
On November 9, the House Ways and Means Committee voted along partisan lines to advance H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Arc opposes this bill because it would reduce revenue by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, thereby increasing pressure to cut Medicaid and other programs. In addition, The Arc opposes the measure’s disproportionate benefit to wealthy individuals and corporations and its repeal of expenditures that benefit people with disabilities – the medical and dental expense deduction, the work opportunity tax credit, and the disabled access tax credit. The bill also modifies Section 529 education savings accounts to cover elementary and high school expenses of up to $10,000 per year and removes income limits. Such a change would allow for wealthy individuals to receive a tax benefit for sending their child to private schools, which are not required to accept or provide a free and appropriate education to students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (read more here). Click here for a section-by-section summary of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and click here to read the statement from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Fiscal Policy Task Force on the bill’s advancement.
Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or are looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find your state information visit the health care website). During open enrollment a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available for low and moderate incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in the current plan. Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post. Open enrollment ends on December 15, 2017.
The Ways and Means Committee begins its markup of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act today. The Arc opposes this bill as it does not meet our shared principles for tax reform. The Arc is also concerned that Congress may add repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that people purchase health insurance when the bill is considered by the committee.