The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has announced funds for new grants for Lifespan Respite systems. The grants will include a federal funding level of up to $200,000 per award for a 36 month project period and will fund up to three cooperative agreements. Grant funds are for planning, establishing, and expanding/enhancing Lifespan Respite Care systems in the states, including new and planned emergency respite services, training and recruiting respite workers and volunteers, and assisting caregivers with gaining access to needed services. While the eligible applicants are state governments, all applicants must demonstrate the support and active involvement of a range of government and non-government, private, non-profit and other organizations with a stake in serving populations eligible to receive services under the Lifespan Respite Care Act. Only one application per State will be funded. Once funded, grantees will be expected to collaborate with multiple state and local agencies representing all ages, populations and disability/disease groups in planning and carrying out the requirements of the project. The announcement can be found here.
The Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016 was signed into law by President Obama on April 19. Among its many provisions, Public Law 114-144 includes a fix to the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) The NFCSP, which received $150 million in FY 2016, provides information to caregivers about available services, assistance in accessing services, individual counseling, support groups, caregiver training, respite care, and supplemental services. The new law extends eligibility to older relative caregivers (age 55 and over) of adults with disabilities (age 19 to 59).
On April 19, the Senate passed a bill to reauthorize the FAA. The bill includes provisions designed to improve the air travel experience for passengers with disabilities, including a review of airline policies regarding training for employees on assistance for people with disabilities and the creation of an Advisory Committee on the Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Commitee has passed its version out of committee and it awaits action on the House floor.
On April 25, the FDA published a Proposed Rule in the Federal Register banning the use of electrical stimulation devices (ESD) to treat aggressive or self-injurious behavior. In considering the ban, the FDA determined that the risks of ESDs outweighed any potential benefits. The FDA “determined, on the basis of all available data and information, that state-of-the art treatments for SIB [self-injurious behavior] and AB [aggressive behavior] are positive-based behavioral approaches, sometimes alongside pharmacotherapy, as appropriate, and do not include ESDs. We focused on data in the scientific literature, current clinical practices, and information about the evolution of treatments for SIB and AB.”
These devices are believed to be currently in use by only one provider in the country, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) in Canton, MA. The FDA’s proposed rule provides an extensive review of the use of ESDs by JRC and the opposition to it by state agencies in Massachusetts and New York, as well as the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Justice. An Advisory Panel recommended the ban in 2014. The FDA is proposing that the ban apply to devices already in use, as well as devices sold or commercially distributed in the future, although it is willing to allow for some period of transition for some individuals. The agency notes that for “certain individuals currently subject to ESDs, immediate cessation could possibly result in a significant increase of SIB or AB before appropriate alternative therapies are in effect, and a more gradual reduction toward complete removal may be necessary for some patients, especially those who have been subject to ESDs for a considerable amount of time.” The FDA welcomes comment on how long those transitions may take.
Comments on the proposed regulation are due May 25, 2016. The Arc has been involved in advocating against the use of these devices for decades and applauds this proposed rule.
Last week, nine states (Alaska, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) formed the country’s first Achieving a Better Life Act (ABLE) consortium. This partnership will allow participating states to garner a greater share of the market, thus allowing lower account fees and more effective investment options. Individual states will still have control over their own plans, but they will have common elements such as investment options. See the press release for more information.
A claims process is now available to compensate individuals who were refused service due to their disability or were not provided reasonable accommodations by Greyhound Lines, Inc. This compensation is available as the result of a consent decree between the Department of Justice and Greyhound Lines, Inc. for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To be eligible, an individual must have traveled or attempted to travel on Greyhound between February 8, 2013 and February 8, 2016, experienced discrimination based on their disability, and submit a claim form no later than November 10, 2016. Instructions are available at the Claims Administrator’s website. The Claims Administrator can be contacted by email, by phone at 844-502-5953 or 800-659-2656 (TTY), or by mail at U.S. v. Greyhound Claims Administrator, c/o Class Action Administration LLC, PO Box 6878, Broomfield, CO 80021. Individuals should contact the administrator for assistance if they are unable to complete the form due to a disability.
The Department of Education recently released new school climate surveys and a guide on making school climate improvements to help foster and sustain safe and supportive environments that are conducive to learning for all students. The School Climate Surveys andQuick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements were developed to help states, school districts, and schools to collect and act on reliable, nationally-validated school climate data in real time. Additional tools will be released later this spring and summer as part of the School Climate Improvement Resource Package, a web-based suite of action-oriented, research- and evidence-based resources to help create and support positive environments.
April is Fair Housing Month! To celebrate Fair Housing Month 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched a new national media campaign to help the public to envision what communities with shared opportunity for all —including people with disabilities—might look like. The new campaign is designed to educate the public about their housing rights and the ideals behind HUD’s new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) initiative. View HUD’s press release to access more resources.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced that nearly $174 million will soon be made available through first-ever allocations of the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). The NHTF is a new, dedicated source of funding for affordable housing for people with the lowest incomes, a group that includes many people with disabilities. The NHTF is funded by a very small assessment on the volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal government sponsored enterprises. The Arc strongly supports funding the NHTF to help meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities for affordable, accessible housing in the community.
Last week, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced S. 2800, the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act. The bill would end federal taxation of discharged federal student loans under the “Total and Permanent Disability” standard or in the event of the death of a borrower. Under current law, forgiven federal student loan debt is considered income for tax purposes. As a result, borrowers who have their federal student loan debt forgiven due to a qualifying disability, and families of borrowers who die, can be charged tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. The Arc supports S. 2800, which will end this unnecessary and harmful tax provision. To learn more, read remarks on the Senate floor by Senator King, as well as press statements by Senator Coons and Senator Portman. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance. The full text of S. 2800 should be available on Congress.gov shortly.