Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities Meeting

The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities will hold its fourth meeting on July 13-14, 2015 in Washington, DC. The meeting will be open to the public on July 13 from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm EDT and on July 14 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm EDT.

The agenda includes the four subcommittees reporting on their work on draft chapters for the interim report; expert panels that will address issues with provider transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment; a panel of providers about their experiences with sheltered workshops under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act; and a public comment period on July 14 from 2:15 pm to 3:00 pm EDT. Organizations or members of the public wishing to submit a written statement may do so by July 2, 2015. Instructions on submitting comments can be found in the Federal Register Notice.

Webinar on Best Practices for Community Emergency Response Team Participants

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness Division is hosting a webinar that focuses on practices that will help ensure a positive and accessible experience for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) participants with disabilities and others with access and functional needs on July 15, 2015 from 3:00 – 4:30 pm EDT. Guest speakers include: Gay Jones, FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC); Kathryn Gerk, Emergency Services Manager, Richmond, CA Fire Department; and Jennifer Fales, Emergency Management Coordinator, Kansas City, MO Office of Emergency Management. Speakers will share their insights and advice on how to engage and include individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs in CERT training and activities, lessons they’ve learned from their experiences, and how their efforts have benefitted their programs and communities. Register now.

Supreme Court Upholds Key Fair Housing Protection

Last week, in a tremendous victory for civil rights, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., a landmark ruling that will support the continued progress of people with disabilities and other minorities toward full inclusion in all aspects of American life. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that housing discrimination is illegal, even if it is not intentional. This decision upholds a longstanding principle under the Fair Housing Act, known as “disparate impact,” that holds that the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws, prohibit policies and practices that discriminate, whether or not the policies were motivated by the intent to harm a particular group.

This week’s Supreme Court decision marks an important milestone in our nation’s path toward integration and inclusion. It is a major victory that shores up the progress that people with disabilities and civil rights organizations have made over the last four decades, and strengthens our ongoing work to promote integration and end discrimination in all its forms. Learn more on The Arc’s blog.

House and Senate Advance Important Fiscal Year 2016 Spending Bills

Last week, the House and Senate advanced the most important spending bills for disability programs – Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED).  Both would maintain overall sequestration funding levels and include a number of substantial cuts to programs, earning the promise of a veto by President Obama.

L-HHS-ED – Senate – The Senate bill passed the Appropriations Committee along party lines on June 25.  The bill’s discretionary funding level is $3.6 billion below the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 enacted level and includes numerous policy riders that would limit the activities of federal agencies.  Several federal agencies would receive significant cuts and a small number would receive increases. Notable examples include:

  • LABOR:  Includes a 4% cut for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs.
  • HHS:  Includes a 28% cut for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) program management that would restrict the agency’s ability to operate the Affordable Care Act programs, Medicare, and Medicaid.
  • EDUCATION: Includes a $1.1 billion cut for the Department.  However, the IDEA state grant program would receive a nearly 1% increase.

L-HHS – House - The House bill passed the full Appropriations Committee along party lines on June 24 and would provide discretionary funding at $3.7 billion below the FY 2015 level.  The bill also includes numerous policy riders. The House bill included spending cuts and select increases similar to those in the Senate bill:

  • LABOR: Includes a 2% cut for the Employment and Training Administration that helps to implement Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs.
  • HHS: Includes a $344 million cut for CMS.
  • EDUCATION: Includes a cut of $2.8 billion to the Department of Education.  However, this includes an increase of $12 billion (4.3%) for IDEA grants to states.

See the funding levels for specific disability related programs.

Notice of Priority to Establish a Workforce Innovation and Technical Assistance Center

The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services published a Notice of Proposed Priority to establish a Workforce Innovation and Technical Assistance Center to provide training and technical assistance to improve services under the State Vocational Rehabilitation Services program and the State Supported Employment Services program for individuals with disabilities, including those with the most significant disabilities, and to implement changes to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, signed into law on July 22, 2014. Comments must be received by Monday, July 21, 2014. Instruction on submission of comments can be found in the Notice.

New Resource Related to Home and Community-Based Services Settings Rule

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Settings Rule. The guidance focuses on the process for states to use in overcoming the presumption that certain settings have the characteristics of an institution, and highlights the heightened scrutiny review that CMS will give such information submitted from states.

Supreme Court Upheld Affordable Care Act (ACA) Provision

The U. S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) again in deciding King v. Burwell. The justices, in a 6-3 ruling, said that Congress intended for federal subsidies to be available in every state, regardless of whether the state created its own marketplace.   The Arc applauded the decision as a major victory for people with disabilities and others who need access to affordable health care.

The ACA is important to people with disabilities. It expanded coverage and reformed insurance to end discrimination against people with disabilities and enhance access to health care. The private health insurance marketplaces allow individuals or small businesses to shop for coverage and potentially receive subsidies to help offset the cost of insurance. The subsidies are key to ensuring affordable coverage. The health insurance reforms, the protections from high premium increases or out-of-pocket costs, and the coverage of “essential health benefits”, including mental health care and rehabilitative/habilitative services and devices, help assure that people with disabilities have affordable health care that meets their needs. To read The Arc’s statement visit our blog.

Senate May Begin Debate on ESEA This Week

The Senate may take up the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015 (S. 1177) as soon as this week.  The ECAA renews the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act) and provides greater autonomy to states.  The Arc supports numerous provision in the bill, such as the 1% cap on the number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can take an Alternative Assessment based on Alternative Achievement Standards (AA-AAS); ensuring that students who take an AA-AAS will not be prevented from earning a regular diploma; and requiring school systems to describe their plans for limiting the use of restraint and seclusion.  However, The Arc remains particularly concerned about the bill’s limited accountability provisions.  Presently, the ECAA only requires intervention and support for schools that fail to meet state performance standards overall, rather than for schools where any subgroups of students (including those with disabilities) fail to meet those standards.  Stay tuned for an action alert.

The IRS Publishes Proposed Regulations for the ABLE Act

On June 19, the Internal Revenue Service issued proposed regulations for implementation of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. These proposed regulations, titled Guidance Under Section 529A: Qualified ABLE Programs, were published in the Federal Register on June 22. Public comments are due on September 21, 2015. The IRS also announced a public hearing scheduled for October 14, 2015.

The proposed regulations address numerous issues, including the following: the relationship of a person with signature authority and the designated beneficiary of the account; qualifications for eligibility; status of an ABLE account when person is no longer disabled; limits on contributions to the account; potential penalties; and qualified expenses. The Arc and other advocates will be analyzing the proposed regulations in preparation for submitting comments.

House Holds Hearing on Social Security Disability Earnings Reports

Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on the Social Security Administration’s management of earnings reports from disability beneficiaries trying to go back to work. Witnesses were David A. Weaver, Associate Commissioner, Office of Research, Demonstration and Employment Support, Social Security Administration, and Daniel Bertoni, Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security, Government Accountability Office. Visit the Committee web site to view testimony.