President Nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

On September 26, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Coney Barrett, a Chicago-based federal appeals court judge, would replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, if confirmed by the Senate. Issues important to people with disabilities often come before the U.S. Supreme Court. They span such important concerns as rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act; the right to fair, non-discriminatory treatment in health care settings; and the death penalty.

House Committee Holds Hearing on Administration Proposal to Defer Payroll Taxes

On September 24, the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on the President’s proposal to defer payroll taxes. Witnesses were Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR); Representatives Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Don Beyer (D-VA); Nancy J. Altman, President of Social Security Works; Will Goodwin, U.S. Army Veteran and the Director of Government Relations for VoteVets; Amy Matsui, Director of Income Security and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center; Janice Dean; Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; and Robert Roach, President of the Alliance for Retired Americans. Visit the committee website for more information and to view video of the hearing.

The Arc opposes the recent executive order and resulting Internal Revenue Service rule that allows employers to temporarily delay payroll taxes and supports legislative efforts to rescind the rule. A delay in payroll taxes will cost the Social Security Trust Funds interest income and workers will still be required to pay the taxes later on. In addition, we share the concerns of the United States Chamber of Commerce and others about the administrative and financial burden that this delay will place on businesses and workers. The President has also made public statements advocating to repeal payroll taxes entirely. Social Security Disability Insurance and other Social Security benefits for people with disabilities rely on these payroll taxes and the Social Security Administration’s non-partisan actuary estimates that the Disability Trust Fund will run out of funds in 2021 and the other Trust Fund in 2023 if payroll taxes were repealed.

National Coronavirus Commission Act Introduced

On September 23, Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) introduced the National Coronavirus Commission Act (S.4666 / H.R.8358). This bill creates a non-partisan commission to assess the nation’s preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to make recommendations to improve readiness in the future. The commission has a specific charge to review the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. The Arc supports this legislation. See The Arc’s statement.

Education Department Gives Up on Effort to Divert COVID Relief Funds to Private Schools

On September 25, the Education Department announced that it will not appeal a U.S. district court judge’s decision that found that it illegally directed states to divert COVID-19 relief money from public schools to private schools. The CARES Act provided $13.5 billion for public and private schools, of which 90% was to be awarded based on federal Title I funding for low-income schools. However, the Education Department released guidance instructing school districts to share pandemic aid with private schools based on the total number of students they enroll, not just low-income students. This interpretation of the CARES Act would have resulted in $1.35 billion being diverted from public schools (which are obligated to serve students with disabilities) to private ones (which are not).

Short Term FY 21 Funding Bill to Be Voted On

The Senate is expected to return on September 29 for a procedural vote on the House-passed continuing resolution (CR). A final vote on the CR is expected by September 30, leaving the President just a few hours to sign the bill before the current spending expires. The measure, H.R 8319, would fund the federal government from the start of fiscal year (FY) 2021 on October 1 through December 11. The vast majority of agencies and programs are level funded and several other provisions are included in the measure. These include extensions of the Medicaid Money Follows the Person program and Spousal Impoverishment Protections program to December 11. The measure also includes $1.5 billion to conduct the 2020 Census.

CMS Data Reveal Decline in Preventive Care Utilization

On September 23, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released preliminary data showing that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady decline in rates of primary and preventive services as well as vaccinations among children on Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For instance, between March and May, there was a 22% decline in vaccinations of Medical and CHIP beneficiaries under 2 and a 44% decline in child screenings that assess physical and cognitive development.

Announcing The Arc’s New Strategic Framework

Our new Strategic Framework for the Future of The Arc is here! This vision will guide our advocacy, programs, and more as we meet the challenges and opportunities of the future head on. Our framework represents two years of listening, planning, and thinking about the future we want to help build—plus thousands of thoughts and dreams from people just like you. You may have even taken our stakeholder survey—if you did, thank you!

On Wednesday, October 7 at 2:00 p.m. ET we will be hosting a Town Hall discussion specifically for self-advocates, family members, caregivers, and service providers to discuss The Arc’s response to COVID-19 and our new Strategic Framework. Register here.

Short Term FY 21 Funding Bill Released

Today the House released the text of H.R. 8319 to fund the federal government from the start of fiscal year (FY) 2021 on October 1 through December 11. The vast majority of agencies and programs are level funded and several other provisions are included in the measure. These include extensions of the Medicaid Money Follows the Person program and Spousal Impoverishment Protections program to December 11. The measure also includes $1.5 billion to conduct the 2020 Census but it does not include $30 billion for farm aid that the White House had sought. A vote is expected in the House this week. Both parties have indicated they want to pass a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown just weeks before the election.

The Arc Mourns the Loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On September 18, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. Justice Ginsburg served on the Supreme Court for 27 years. She authored the majority opinion in the landmark case Olmstead v. L.C. in which the court ruled that people with disabilities have a right to be free from inappropriate institutionalization and to be served in the “most integrated setting appropriate to the needs.” See The Arc’s statement.

USCCR Recommends Phase-Out of Subminimum Wage

On September 17, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) released a report in which they recommended a phase-out of subminimum wages under Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The report highlighted “persistent failures” in oversight of the program. Furthermore, the report notes that people with IDD who earn subminimum wage “are not categorically different in level of disability” from people with IDD who work in competitive integrated employment. In recommending a planned phase-out, the report emphasizes that “[t]he phased repeal of 14(c) must not reflect a retreat in federal investments and support for employment success of persons with disabilities but rather a reconceptualization of the way in which the federal government can enhance the possibilities for success and growth for people with disabilities.” The Arc supports building infrastructure and supports needed to phase out the issuance of subminimum wage certificates, increasing opportunities for competitive integrated employment, and putting in place safeguards to protect the interests of any people affected by this shift.