President releases Budget Request; Disability programs slated for both significant cuts and increases

The Obama Administration released its budget request for FY 2012 on February 14th.  It included a five-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending, saving an estimated $400 billion over 10 years.  Within the overall freeze, some programs were viewed as investments and given an increase, others faced significant cuts, and many programs were proposed to be consolidated with other programs. The White House budget would reduce overall spending by 2.7 percent from the $3.8 trillion Obama proposed a year ago for fiscal 2011.

Below is a summary of changes to disability-related programs in the President’s Budget:

Health:  The Administration proposes cutting $62 billion from federal health spending to offset the cost of a two-year delay in reducing payments to physicians who treat Medicare patients.

Employment:  As has been proposed in previous budgets, the Supported Employment State Grant program, Projects with Industry and a few other smaller programs were proposed to be consolidated with the state grant. There were also a few proposals for new spending including:

  • targeted program for youth receiving SSI ($30 million)
  • Mentoring program for individuals with intellectual disabilities ($5 million)
  • National activities to improve VR ($8 million)

Social Security:  The President has requested $12.522 billion for the Social Security Administration’s administrative expenses, an amount that Commissioner Michael Astrue indicates is “the minimum the agency needs to continue to reduce key backlogs and to increase deficit-reducing program integrity work.”  In addition, the request includes proposals to establish:

  • Disability Research Consortium – to enhance recent efforts to expand disability research. ($5 million)
  • SSI Children’s Pilot – an interagency pilot – Promoting Readiness of Minors in SSI (PROMISE) – to improve outcomes for children in the SSI program.  Funding will provide competitive grants to test and evaluate interventions that successfully improve child and family outcomes and result in children leaving the SSI program. ($10 million)
  • Disability Insurance /Work Incentives Simplification Pilot (WISP) – a legislative proposal to reauthorize SSA’s demonstration authority for 5 years, including its ability to test various methods of treating work activity of people receiving disability benefits.  Using that authority, WISP would test important improvements of return-to-work rules by simplifying treatment of beneficiaries’ earnings and potentially reducing overpayments.

Developmental Disabilities Act: The DD grant programs would remain level funded; however the funding for Projects of National Significance would be cut to $8 million from $14 million, a cut of $6 million.

Discrimination:
$18 million would be added to EEOC’s budget for enforcement of the non-discrimination in employment provisions of the ADA. Funding for the Helping America Vote (HAVA) protection and advocacy voting project would be eliminated.

Special Education:  The Department of Education would receive a $200 million increase for special education and $50 million for programs for infants and toddlers.

Special Olympics: The President’s Budget would provide level funding of $8 million.

Housing: The President’s Budget calls for $196 million for the Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program, a cut of 35% from FY 2010.  It would move Section 811 rental assistance vouchers to the Section 8 voucher program, freeing Section 811 dollars up for creating new accessible housing.  Under the new Frank Melville Housing program, housing developers would be able to leverage the Section 811 dollars in more efficient ways.  The anticipated number of accessible housing units would be 3-4,000 compared with the 1,000 new units annually under the current system.

Respite. The President’s Budget calls for $10 million for the Lifespan Respite program which is a 400% increase over the current funding level ($2.5 million). It also provides $192 million for the Family Caregiver Support program which is 500% increase over the FY2010 level ($38 million).

New Programs: The Department of Education would receive $5 million to create a Mentoring for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities; NIDRR would receive an additional $10 million to investigate cloud computing for making computer technology accessible; and several departments would jointly receive $30 million to create a transition program called PROMISE for youth who receive SSI benefits.

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