The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) Appropriations Subcommittee quickly marked up and passed S. 3295, the L-HHS-ED bill, along party lines. The full Senate Appropriations Committee followed two days later, passing the bill along party lines by a vote of 16 to 14. The bill provides level funding for most disability-related discretionary programs, and included a few increases over the amounts requested in the President’s Budget. Highlights of the spending bill include:
- IDEA —The bill provides $11.678 billion, an increase of $100 million, under section 611 of part B grants to States for educating students with disabilities between the age of 3 and 21. The bill also includes $463 million, an increase of $20 million, to support statewide systems of coordinated and early intervention services for children with disabilities two years old and younger, as well as their families.
- Respite – The bill includes $4.9 million for the Lifespan Respite Care program, nearly double the amount this program received in FY 2012.
- Assistive Technology—The bill provides $37.5 million, an increase of $4.7 million, for State assistive technology programs. These programs support a range of activities to serve people with disabilities, including State financing programs, device reutilization and loan programs, and device demonstrations.
- Disability Hearings at the Social Security Administration (SSA)—The bill includes $11.736 billion, a $290 million increase, for SSA’s administrative expenses. This increase will support SSA’s efforts to eliminate the disability hearings backlog by the end of fiscal year 2013.
- Promoting School Readiness for Minors in SSI (PROMISE)—In FY 2012, Congress created PROMISE, an interagency effort to improve outcomes for children, and the families of children, receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. PROMISE was created to encourage State-level innovations that can help young people with disabilities enter and succeed in competitive, integrated employment. The bill includes nearly $12 million and the authority to allocate unspent vocational rehabilitation State grant funds within the Department of Education for this effort, in addition to $7.2 million at SSA.
Despite the Senate action, this specific bill is unlikely to be enacted due to the differences between the House and Senate. The House Appropriations Committee is working with the $1.028 billion limit set by the “Ryan Budget” while the Senate is using the higher $1.047 billion limit set by the Budget Control Act. Instead, one or more continuing resolution is anticipated to keep the federal government operating into the beginning of the fiscal year which begins on October 1, 2012.