Education – Report Shows Most States are Not Meeting IDEA Obligations

The U.S. Department of Education found that only 22 states deserved the “meets requirements” designation for the 2015-2016 school year. All other states were placed into the “needs assistance” category. The findings come from an annual mandatory assessment of state compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The ratings are based on how well states meet their obligations to serve students with disabilities ages 3 to 21.

Tax Policy – Louisiana Opens Qualified ABLE Program

On June 29, Louisiana became the 23rd state to launch a qualified ABLE Program. This program is currently only open to Louisiana residents. The program has seven investment options. There are no fees associated with the account. The minimum initial deposit is $10. 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

Social Security – Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act Introduced in House and Senate

Last week, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) with 5 cosponsors and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) with one cosponsor have introduced the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 3302S. 1600). The bill would strengthen Social Security’s finances by removing the current cap on annual payroll contributions, set at $127,200 in 2017. It would also provide for more accurate and adequate annual cost of living adjustments for all Social Security Old-Age, Survivors’, and Disability Insurance benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income benefits. In the House, the bill has been referred to the Committees on Ways and Means, Education and the Workforce, and Energy and Commerce; in the Senate, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance.

Social Security – SSI Restoration Act Introduced in House

Last week, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and 36 cosponsors introduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act (H.R. 3307). The bill would update and enhance the SSI program by updating the general earned income disregard to $114 per month, updating the earned income disregard to $377 per month, and updating the resource limits to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a couple. Congress has not adjusted these limits in many years. In addition, the SSI Restoration Act would repeal SSI’s in-kind support and maintenance provisions as well as penalties for resource transfers, marriage, and state tax credits. The Arc and numerous other national organizations strongly support the SSI Restoration Act. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Education/Appropriations – House Appropriators Reject School Choice Initiatives

The House Appropriations Committee did not fund two Trump Administration education priorities. In the Administration’s FY 2018 Budget, the President requested $1 billion for “portability” of funds to public school of choice and $250 million for research and private school scholarships for low-income families. However, the Appropriations Committee report noted that these programs have not been authorized. This means that Congress would need to enact legislation to allow public education dollars to be used for both public school portability and private school choice efforts.

Budget & Appropriations – House Appropriations Committee Passes L-HHS-Ed Funding Bill

On July 19, the House Appropriations Committee approved the draft FY 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED) funding bill by a vote of 28-22. The bill provides an overall funding level of $156 billion, a $5 billion (3.1%) discretionary cut from FY 2017 levels. Most disability-related programs were level funded, with few seeing cuts and a small number receiving increases. See line items for disability related programs here. The Senate has yet to release its L-HHS-Ed funding bill, though the overall allocation is higher ($164 billion) than the House’s bill ($156 billion).

Health Care/Medicaid – Senate Vote on Health Care Repeal Planned for This Week

The Senate continues to try and move forward on a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On July 17, plans to repeal the ACA and cap Medicaid were put on hold when four Republican Senators announced their intent to vote “no” on a motion to begin debate. The next morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that there would be a vote on Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA), which does not include Medicaid per capita caps, but does repeal Medicaid expansion, the increased federal match for the Community First Choice option, the individual and employer mandates, the premium tax credits, and a number of other provisions. The bill would not take effect for two years, giving Congress time to develop a replacement. However, it is unclear whether insurers will continue to participate in the market when the long-term framework is unknown. Within hours of this announcement, three Republican Senators announced their opposition to voting to repeal and delay replacement with a new plan.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell then announced that there will be a vote on a motion to begin debate early this week. It is unclear whether the vote will be on the ORRA or a revised Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The Senate is also considering revising BCRA to includes $200 billion in non-Medicaid funds for expansion states in an effort to win support from Senators from the Medicaid expansion states. The Congressional Budget Office has evaluated the ORRA and BCRA and found that they will increase the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million and 22 million, respectively.

To further complicate the situation, the Senate Parliamentarian, who must review provisions to make sure they comply with the Senate rules, has found that several provisions could be challenged and would require 60 votes to keep them in the bill. The provisions include a prohibition of Planned Parenthood funding, ending the essential health benefits requirement in Medicaid, continuing funding for cost sharing subsidies, allowing states to change the requirement that plans spend at least 80% of premium income on health care, and the six- month waiting period prior to enrollment without continuous coverage. The Parliamentarian continues to review the bill and may issue additional findings. It is unclear if the Senate has the votes to pass any legislation at this point, but the leadership is expected to keep working to try and find agreement on repealing the ACA.

Budget & Appropriations – House Budget Committee Passes FY 2018 Budget Resolution

The House Budget Committee approved a Budget Resolution on a 22-14 party-line vote. The 10-year budget plan includes:

  • $4.4 trillion in cuts from Mandatory programs:
    • $1.5 trillion cut from Medicaid and other health programs (includes House-passed American Health Care Act cuts plus additional cuts)
    • $487 billion cut from Medicare
    • $4 billion cut from Social Security disability insurance (SSDI)
    • Almost $2.5 trillion cut from other mandatory programs like SNAP (food stamps) and other income security programs
  • $1.3 trillion in cuts to Non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs below the current cap, while defense is increased $930 billion above the cap. This would put NDD funding (which includes many disability-related programs such as housing, employment, education, and transportation) at 17% below 2010 levels when factoring in inflation.

The House budget also provides “reconciliation instructions” for 11 committees to fast-track a package of spending cuts and tax cuts, requiring only 50 votes in the Senate to pass. Since the instructions specify “deficit-neutral” rather than “revenue-neutral” tax reform, the Ways & Means Committee will be able offset the costs of tax cuts with cuts to mandatory spending, such as Medicaid and Medicare. The House of Representatives is expected to take up this measure in September. The Arc strongly opposes the House Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget Resolution.

Education – IDEA Full Funding Act Introduced in House

Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV), Timothy Walz (D-MN), David Reichert (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and John Katko (R-NY) introduced the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Full Funding Act (H.R. 2902). This bipartisan bill would increase spending over the next decade to bring the federal share of funding for special education up to 40 percent, the amount committed to when the law was first enacted in 1975. Currently the federal government currently covers 15.7 percent of these costs. The Arc supports this legislation.

Education – Department of Education Issues Final Rule Eliminating the R-Word from Its Regulations

The Department of Education released its final rule eliminating the r-word from its regulations and replacing it with “intellectual disability” or “intellectual disabilities.” This rule does not make any change to the meaning of the regulations, but rather brings them in line with Rosa’s Law, the 2010 law which eliminated the term from all statutes under the jurisdiction of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.