On November 1, Michigan became the fifth state to open a Qualified ABLE Program. This program is open to qualified individuals nation-wide. It offers five different investment options. More information about state implementation the ABLE Act can be found here.
Congressional leaders are laying the groundwork for a rapid repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) beginning on the first day of the new Congress, before President-elect Donald Trump is even sworn in. It appears they are seeking to repeal the ACA without developing a replacement plan. The Arc urges all advocates to begin early and sustained action to protect the ACA and its many protections and benefits for people with disabilities. We will be sending materials soon in support of our advocacy campaign.
On December 9, the day that a 10-week continuing resolution (CR) was set to expire, the Senate passed another short term CR. The CR, which had been passed by the House the day before, was quickly signed into law by President Obama. The measure will keep most of the federal government in operation through April 28, 2017. It includes an across-the-board cut of 0.19% from FY 2016 (to stay under the Budget Control Act’s post-sequester discretionary cap for 2017), an amount that is smaller than the 0.496% cut in the CR that expired on Friday. Summaries are available from House Appropriations Committee Republicans and Democrats.
After being amended and passed by the House of Representatives on December 8, Kevin and Avonte’s Law (H.R. 4919), stalled in the Senate. This bill would provide grant funds to state and local law enforcement agencies and nonprofit organizations for education, training, and technology to help prevent and reduce the harm from wandering (or “elopement”). The Arc dropped its support and now opposes the bill after two last minute changes were made: 1) A “pay for” from the Department of Justice’s Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program was added to cover the estimated $7 million cost over a five year period, and 2) language was added on the allowable uses of tracking device data that raises civil rights concerns. The measure would need to be reintroduced in the 115th Congress that begins in January.
On December 7, the Department of Education released final regulations on assessments in public schools. These regulations implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 require states to continue testing students every year, but provide more flexibility for states to try out new kinds of tests or use a nationally recognized college entrance test (such as the SAT) at the high school level. Among other things, the final regulations tweak the criteria for deciding when a state can get a waiver for exceeding the cap on the percentage of students who can take an alternate assessment based on alternative achievement standards (AA-AAS). The default cap of 1% of all students being tested was set to ensure that only students with “the most significant cognitive disabilities” take an AA-AAS. Many states preclude students who only take an AA-AAS from receiving a regular high school diploma. Read a fact sheet on the final regulations here and see the waiver language here.
On December 6, Oregon opened two ABLE programs, the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan for residents, and ABLE for ALL for non-residents. This makes Oregon the sixth state to open a Qualified ABLE Program. Both plans require a minimum deposit of $25. Both have a cash option and three investment options. The investment options have asset-based fees ranging from 0.30% to 0.38% per year. There is an annual fee of $55 for ABLE for ALL and a $45 annual fee for the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan. Those who sign up for the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan by December 31, 2017 will save 50% on the annual fee.
The Council of State Governments and the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Task Force on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities released their joint final report, “Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities.” This report contains many recommendations that are relevant to the work that states are currently undertaking to increase opportunities for persons with disabilities and to revamp work related systems and programs.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is gathering feedback from voters with disabilities about their experiences during the election. Sharing experiences will help the EAC take stock of the 2016 election process, determine what went well, and identify areas for continued improvement to ensure that all people with disabilities are able to vote privately and independently. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story. All positive and negative feedback is welcome and encouraged.
The Paul Marchand Internship Fund will provide $3,000 per semester or summer session to assist interns interested in pursuing careers in public policy advocacy for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). For 38 years, Paul Marchand was a dedicated disability policy advocate and recognized leader working on behalf of people with I/DD and the larger disability community. Upon his retirement in 2011, The Arc, with substantial contributions from United Cerebral Palsy, other organizations, and individuals with whom Paul worked during his decades in Washington, established an internship to honor Paul and to continue to cultivate disability policy advocates. See more information here.
On November 30, the House Democrats selected their leaders for the 115thCongress. They re-elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Minority Leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) as Minority Whip, and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) as Assistant Minority Leader, and elected Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) as Caucus Chair.