Criminal Justice – The Arc to Host Facebook Live with NPR’s Joe Schapiro

On March 9th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, The Arc will be hosting a Facebook Live with Joe Shapiro, the reporter behind NPR’s powerful series on sexual assault and disability. Joe will be joined by Leigh Ann Davis, Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives for The Arc, for a conversation about this serious problem facing individuals with disabilities. There will be time for questions and answers during this Facebook Live event. Tune in and please share with your networks. Find the event on The Arc’s Facebook page.

Social Security – House Committee to Hold Hearing on SSA Leadership

On March 7 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “Lacking a Leader: Challenges Facing the SSA after over 5 Years of Acting Commissioners.” As stated in the Committee’s announcement “The hearing will focus on the need for a Senate-confirmed Commissioner to lead the Social Security Administration (SSA), the challenges and limitations faced by the SSA when it is led by an Acting Commissioner, and the legal framework that governs a vacancy at the SSA.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video the day of the hearing.

Health – Senate Approves Alex Azar as HHS Secretary

On January 24, the Senate approved the nomination of Alex Azar to be Secretary of Health and Human Services by a vote of 55-43. HHS is the cabinet level department that administers most federal health and social service programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act programs, Developmental Disabilities Act programs, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Additionally, it oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.

Family Support – President Trump Signs RAISE Family Caregivers Act

President Trump signed the Recognize, Assist, Include, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act into law on January 22 (P.L. 115-119). The Arc supported this bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) that calls for the development of a strategy to support the nation’s more than 40 million caregivers. The RAISE Family Caregivers Act will bring together stakeholders from both the public and private sector to create an advisory body. This advisory body will then develop recommendations for how government, communities, providers, employers, and others can better recognize and support family caregivers. Read The Arc’s statement on passage of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act here.

Register Today: Disability Policy Seminar on April 23-25!

Registration for the premier policy event of the year is officially open! Join other advocates and professionals from all over the country to get up-to-date on the latest policy issues and legislation. It is an excellent opportunity to advance our grassroots movement, meet with your Members of Congress, and educate them on the needs of people with disabilities. 2017 was a tumultuous year in Washington for disability rights. Congress repeatedly attempted to cut and cap Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act, but was met with resistance from the disability community at every turn. We won those battles together, thanks to your advocacy, energy, and persistence! But the fight isn’t over. We need you in Washington, DC to advocate for the programs that people with disabilities rely on to make a life in community possible. The Disability Policy Seminar is your chance to make an impact! Register today at disabilitypolicyseminar.org.

Budget & Appropriations – President’s FY 2019 Budget Proposes Drastic Cuts for Disability-related Programs

The Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget Request on Feb. 12. This document outlines the Administration’s spending and revenue priorities for the next decade. Among the many proposed cuts of concern to the disability community are:

  • Medicaid would be drastically cut through per capita caps and block grants. In addition, the President’s Budget assumes repeal of critical provisions such as the requirements for adequate benefits and affordable health plans that protect people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) would be cut by roughly $70 billion.
  • Developmental Disabilities (DD) Act Programs would see double digit cuts – State Councils on Developmental Disabilities (-23%), University Centers for Excellence in Disabilities (-13%), and Projects of National Significance (-90%).
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) would lose $213 billion, a reduction of 30%.
  • Housing programs would lose $6.8 billion, including major cuts in housing choice vouchers, public housing, and other vital programs for people with disabilities.

Though the President’s Budget Request does not have the force of law, it can set the stage for the Congressional budgets which follow. The Senate has indicated that it will not consider a FY 2019 budget due to the recent budget deal to raise spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs, however it is unclear if the House intends to do so. Click here to see proposed spending levels for discretionary programs in the President’s FY 2019 Budget Request. Click here to read The Arc’s statement.

Rights – House Passes Bill Weakening Enforcement of the ADA

On February 16, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) by a vote of 225-192. This bill prevents lawsuits over architectural barriers violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless an individual provides “specific enough” notice and allows 120 days for a business to correct that barrier. The bill’s supporters believe that the ADA has led to “frivolous lawsuits” where plaintiffs and attorneys intentionally seek barriers in order to extract funds. However, the ADA does not allow courts to award monetary damages to plaintiffs. Where those damages are available, it is through state law. Furthermore, there are already laws on the books that allow punishment of attorneys who represent clients in frivolous lawsuits. This bill effectively eliminates incentives for businesses to comply with federal law until 120 days after a person with a disability asks them to do so. See this fact sheet from Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund for more information. Click here to read The Arc’s statement.

Employment – GAO Releases Report on Inter-Agency Collaboration for WIOA Implementation

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report regarding the collaboration of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education required by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The report found that implementation aligned with five of seven leading collaboration practices. It recommended that agencies’ efforts be improved by utilizing online collaboration tools and having written agreements of the roles of each agency during collaboration. The report listed six recommendations, two for each agency, on how the collaboration could be improved.

Tax Policy – New Mexico, West Virginia Open Qualified ABLE Programs

New Mexico and West Virginia opened qualified ABLE programs, bringing the total number of jurisdictions with ABLE programs to 33. The programs are currently only open to state residents. They have five investment options. The accounts have a $3.50 monthly fee and asset-based fees ranging from 0.19% to 0.34% for investment options. The minimum initial deposit is $50. More information about state implementation of the ABLE Act can be found here. General information about ABLE programs can be found in the National Policy Matters: ABLE Accounts for People with Disabilities here.