Oklahoma recently opened a new ABLE program, bringing the total number of jurisdictions with ABLE programs to 37. The program is currently only open to Oklahoma residents. It has five investment options. Accounts have a $3.50 monthly maintenance fee and asset-based fees ranging from 0.19% to 0.33% for investment options. The minimum initial deposit is $50. More information about state implementation of the ABLE Act can be found here.
On July 11, the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy held a hearing on “Examining the Importance of Paid Family Leave for American Working Families.” Witnesses were Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA); Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Andrew Biggs, Ph.D., Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Vicki Shabo, Vice President for Workplace Policies and Strategies, National Partnership for Women & Families; and Carolyn O’Boyle, Managing Director, Deloitte Services, LLP. Visit the Committee web site for more information including opening statements, testimony, and archived video of the hearing.
The Senate is expected to vote as early as today on a bill to delay by one year Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) requirements for tracking when personal care services are provided to people with disabilities. The bill also expresses the sense of Congress that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should hold at least one public meeting and solicit ongoing stakeholder input on its recently-issued guidance. The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill (H.R.6042) by voice vote last month. Learn more about this bill here. The Arc urges advocates to contact their Senators as soon as possible.
On July 12, the AT3 Technical Assistance and Training Center will host a webinar titled “Assistive Technology Programs: AT Resources for Family Caregivers and Respite Care Providers.” This webinar will share how caregivers and respite providers can connect and avail themselves of AT Act programs and activities. Presenters will share information about resources for access (resources to find and select AT) and acquisition (resources to obtain needed AT). Presenters will be Rob Groenendaal, Assistive Technology Program Manager, Center for Integrated Programs, Office of Consumer Access and Self-Determination, Administration for Community Living, US Department of Health and Human Services; Mary Exline, AT3 Center Director; and others be announced. The webinar will take place from 2:00-3:00 PM EDT. Register here. Learn more about the webinar here.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education has issued a report grading states on their commitment to public education. The report assesses privatization programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia with the goal of not only highlighting the benefits of a public school education, but comparing the accountability, transparency and civil rights protections offered students in the public school setting versus the private school setting. States are rated on the extent to which they have instituted policies and practices that lead toward fewer democratic opportunities and more privatization, as well as the guardrails they have (or have not) put into place to protect the rights of students, communities, and taxpayers. The report also recommends improving public schools by reducing class sizes, improving teacher training and recruitment, supporting pre-K education, and increasing parental involvement. See the report here.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is in the process of distributing newly-designed Medicare cards. As part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, Congress mandated the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to guard against identity theft. The new cards contain a unique Medicare number for each individual. Cards are being mailed out between April 2018 and April 2019 on a schedule organized by state of residence. Learn more here.
On June 27, Representatives Don McEachin (D-VA) and John Faso (R-NY) introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2018. This bill requires landlords of federally-funded housing units built before 1978 where children under the age of six will or may reside to conduct thorough risk assessments for lead-based paint hazards. In addition, landlords would be required to provide a means for families to relocate without penalty if a lead hazard is not controlled in 30 days, and to disclose the presence of lead hazards found in the home. The Arc supports this legislation to reduce exposure to lead which is known to contribute to learning and developmental disabilities.
On June 29, the Department of Education announced that it would delay the regulations that were set to take effect this month to address racial/ethnic disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The requirement for states and school districts to collect and report data on significant disproportionality, and take certain action if it is found, was added to the IDEA in 2004. However, since that time few states and school districts have reported any such significant disproportionality. In response to this problem, documented in a 2013 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of Education issued regulations in 2016 to require a standard methodology to calculate significant disproportionality. In February, the Department solicited public comment on a proposed delay of these regulations as part of President Trump’ Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.” Nearly 400 comments were submitted in response with the vast majority opposing the delay, including comments from The Arc and from school districts already in the implementation process. The Department cited concerns about creating incentives for quotas and the need to study the issue further as justification for postponement. The Arc is very disappointed with the Department’s action and remains very concerned about the disproportionate numbers of minority students being over identified with certain types of disabilities, placed in segregated settings, and suspended and/or expelled.
On June 16, the Committee report was posted for the bill that was passed the day before by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED). The report includes line item funding levels for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and shows that most of The Arc’s priority programs would be level funded, with a few seeing increases and one being cut. On June 28, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the L-HHS-ED funding bill. Like the House version, this bill funds most of The Arc’s priority programs at FY 2018 levels, but does not contain any cuts. See the proposed funding levels by the House and Senate here.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed by a vote of 86 to 11 its version of the “Farm Bill” (Manager’s Amendment to the House version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018). The bill reauthorizes farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is a bipartisan bill that did not include cuts and other provisions that were contained in the House of Representative version of the bill. The next step will be a negotiation between the House and Senate to find a compromise between the two approaches. More than 11 million people with disabilities rely on SNAP to help put food on the table. For more information about The Arc’s position see our statement.