Health: House Passes Bill to Improve the ACA

On May 16, the House of Representatives passed H.R.987, which reverses administrative actions weakening the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It rescinds the Department of Health and Human Services regulation expanding the use of short-term limited-duration insurance (STLDI). STLDI plans are not required to cover people pre-existing conditions, and can charge higher premiums based on age, gender, or health status. Additionally, it restores funding for consumer outreach and education programs and the Navigator Program, which were cut by the Administration.

Housing: House Committee to Hold Hearing on HUD Oversight

On May 21, the House Committee on Financial Services will hold a hearing titled “Housing in America: Oversight of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.” Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson will testify. As stated in the Committee’s announcement, the hearing will examine “the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s current state of affairs and address major changes to agency policies and programs since 2017.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.

Education: GAO Blog Notes Disparities on 65th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

May 17, 2019 marked the 65th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court Case that held public school segregation based on race was unconstitutional. In light of this anniversary, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a blog post discussing three recent reports on disparities that still exist in education. The first report noted the rise in the percentage of schools where 75% or more of the students were black or Hispanic and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The second report discusses the disproportionate use of discipline against black students, boys, and students with disabilities. The third report discusses the limited course offerings at high-poverty schools.

Budget & Appropriations: House Committee Approves L-HHS-ED Appropriations

On May 8, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) bill. The bill provides $189.9 billion in funding, a 7% increase over FY 2019. Most of The Arc’s priority programs received increases. Particularly notable increases include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B State Grants (8.1%), Lifespan Respite Care Program (33.8%), State Grants to Remove Barriers to Voting (28.7%), and Rehabilitation Services Administration Demonstration and Training Programs (26.5%). Funding levels for The Arc’s priority programs can be found here. Senate Appropriators, meanwhile, have declined to move forward with spending bills until a deal is reached to increase the spending caps for discretionary programs. Absent a deal, the spending cap for all non-defense discretionary programs would be reduced by 9% for FY 2020.

Child Welfare & Adoption: House Committee Approves CAPTA Reauthorization

On May 8, the House Committee on Education and Labor approved the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R.2480). This bill reauthorizes the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provides federal funding to states to address child abuse and neglect. This bill increases investments to address child maltreatment resulting from the opioid epidemic. Learn more about the legislation here.

Employment/Family Support: House Committee Holds Hearing on Paid Family and Medical Leave

On May 8, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing titled “Paid Family and Medical Leave: Helping Workers and Employers Succeed.” Witnesses were Marisa Howard-Karp, Member, MomsRising; Anthony Sandkamp, Owner, Sandkamp Woodworking; Pronita Gupta, Director of Job Quality, Center for Law and Social Policy; Suzan LeVine, Commissioner, Washington State Employment Security Department; and Rachel Greszler, Research Fellow in Economics, Budget, and Entitlements, Institute for Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation. Visit the committee website to review testimony and archived video of the hearing.

Income Support: OMB Seeking Comments on Federal Poverty Level Inflation Measures

On May 7, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a notice of solicitation of comments on how to measure inflation for purposes of determining the federal poverty level. The agency currently uses the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) to calculate inflation. One option being considered is the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U). The C-CPI-U will result in a lower estimation of inflation than under current practice. Over time, this change would result in people losing eligibility for these critical programs. The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is used to determine eligibility for several means-tested benefits, including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Tax/Housing: HUD Issues Guidance on Treatment of ABLE Accounts

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued long-awaited guidance clarifying that funds in ABLE accounts should not be included in determining a person’s eligibility for means-tested housing assistance. ABLE accounts are available to people with significant disabilities that developed before the age of 26, including those who meet the eligibility requirements under Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Money in an ABLE account can be used to cover “qualified disability expenses,” such as housing, education, and transportation. In general, to be eligible for some public benefits that many people with disabilities and their families rely on, including Medicaid and housing assistance, an individual is limited to no more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds, and other items of significant value. ABLE accounts are an option for people with disabilities to build savings without taking away their eligibility for these important benefits.

The ABLE Act states that amounts in an ABLE account or contributions to an ABLE account and pay-outs for qualified disability expenses should not be counted for federal means-tested programs. Consistent with Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration policy, the HUD notice clarifies that, for the purpose of determining eligibility and continued occupancy for a list of key HUD programs, HUD will disregard amounts in the individual’s ABLE account. Some people with disabilities and their families have heard confusing or inaccurate information about whether or not participation in ABLE could threaten their receipt of other critical federal benefits. The notice is good news for people in HUD-funded programs and should be helpful in addressing questions about the treatment of ABLE account funds.

Education: LPI Releases School Discipline Report

On April 18, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) released a report titled “Protecting Students’ Civil Rights: The Federal Role in School Discipline.” The report discusses the negative impacts of zero-tolerance policies and discrimination in discipline. It notes guidance documents and regulations the Trump administration has targeted for elimination, such as the discipline guidance and the significant disproportionality rule. Additionally, the report discusses strategies to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, such as teaching social-emotional skills.

Health/LTSS: Representatives Introduce Medicare for America Act

On May 1, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and 14 other co-sponsors introduced the Medicare for America Act (H.R.2452). The bill expands Medicare to cover all persons not covered by employer-sponsored health insurance. Additionally, it expands Medicare’s benefit package to include long term services and supports (LTSS), among other things. The Arc supports including provisions to cover LTSS in any comprehensive health reform proposal.