Autism: President Signs Autism CARES Act

On September 30, President Trump signed into law the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 (H.R.1058). The Arc strongly supports this bill to reauthorize the Autism CARES Act, which funds critical autism research, surveillance, and education programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This reauthorization includes a greater focus on the needs of people with autism and other developmental disabilities across the lifespan. It also increases the minimum number of self-advocates on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). The law was reauthorized for five years.

Education: NCEO Releases Report on State-Defined Alternate Diplomas

The National Center on Education Outcomes released a report titled “Status of State-Defined Alternate Diplomas in 2018-19.” State-defined alternate diplomas were established in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 as the only credential other than a regular high school diploma that can be included in calculating graduation rates. State-defined alternate diplomas may only be made available to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take the alternate assessment aligned to alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAS). The report found that eight states (AR, LA, MS, NV, NH, TN, UT, and WV) currently have alternate diplomas for students with significant cognitive disabilities. It also found that these states are clearly defining the requirements for earning the diploma, but they are not providing informational resources that help educators implement the requirements or that help families decide whether to pursue the option. Among other things, the authors recommend states report on the number of students pursuing the alternate diploma, receiving the alternate diploma, and their post-school outcomes.

Budget & Appropriations: President Signs Short-Term Spending Bill

On September 27, President Trump signed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government for an additional eight weeks beyond the start of fiscal year (FY) 2020 on October 1. This CR, providing level funding, passed the Senate on September 26, following House passage earlier in the month. After a two-week recess, which starts today, Senators plan to resume work on full-year FY 2020 appropriations bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved 10 of 12 appropriations bills. It still has not approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which contains most of The Arc’s priority discretionary programs.

Employment: Senate Confirms Scalia as Labor Secretary

On September 27, the Senate confirmed Eugene Scalia to be Secretary of Labor by a vote of 53-44. The Department of Labor is the agency responsible for the implementation of federal labor and employment laws, including those relating to wages and hours. Additionally, it includes the Office of Disability Employment Policy, which is a non-regulatory agency that promotes employment of people with disabilities.

Autism: Senate Passes Autism Care Act

On September 19, the Senate passed the House version of the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 (H.R.1058) by unanimous consent. The Arc strongly supports this bill to reauthorize the Autism CARES Act, which funds critical autism research, surveillance, and education programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), respectively. This reauthorization includes a greater focus on the needs of people with autism and other developmental disabilities across the lifespan. Additionally, it increases the minimum number of self-advocates on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). The bill now awaits President Trump’s signature.

Direct Support Professionals: Direct CARE Opportunity Act Introduced

On September 19, Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Susie Lee (D-NV) introduced the Direct Creation, Advancement, and Retention of Employment (CARE) Opportunity Act (S.2521/H.R.4397). This bill provides grants to 15 entities to develop and implement strategies relating to recruitment, retention, and career advancement for direct care workers. The Arc strongly supports this bill.

Budget & Appropriations: House Passes Bill to Prevent Government Shutdown While Senate Committees Release Funding Bills

On September 19, the House passed a continuing resolution (H.R.4378) to keep the government funded from the start of fiscal year (FY) 2020 on October 1 through November 21. Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-NY) released a draft of the FY 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill the day before. Most of The Arc’s priority programs receive the same funding level as in FY 2019 in the proposed Senate bill, however some programs receive increases such as Lifespan Respite Care Act (49%) and Special Olympics Education Programs (14%). Funding levels for The Arc’s priority programs can be found here.

Employment: Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Labor Nominee

On September 19, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Eugene Scalia to be Secretary of Labor. The Department of Labor is the agency responsible for the implementation of federal labor and employment laws, including those relating to wages and hours. Additionally, it includes the Office of Disability Employment Policy which is a non-regulatory agency that promotes employment of people with disabilities. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access video of the hearing.

Social Security/Income Support: Representatives Reintroduce SSI Restoration Act

On September 11, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and 20 other co-sponsors reintroduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act of 2019 (H.R.4280). The bill would update and enhance the SSI program by updating the general earned income disregard to $123 per month, updating the earned income disregard to $399 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 strongly supports the SSI Restoration Act.

Rights/Immigration: House Holds Hearing on “The Administration’s Apparent Revocation of Medical Deferred Action for Critically Ill Children”

On September 11, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing on “The Administration’s Apparent Revocation of Medical Deferred Action for Critically Ill Children.” This policy allowed some immigrants to with serious medical needs and their family members who care for them to stay in the country while receiving life-saving treatment. The Arc is opposed to ending this policy. Visit the Committee website for more information or to access video on the of the hearing. Read The Arc’s statement on this policy here, and see the letter of record from disability advocates, including The Arc, here.