Budget & Appropriations: Congress Approves Bipartisan Budget Deal

The House and Senate approved the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (H.R.3877) on July 25 and August 1, respectively. This bill prevents scheduled discretionary cuts from taking effect and increases limits on discretionary spending. Additionally, it suspends the debt ceiling until August 1, 2021. The House of Representatives is likely to revisit its previously approved appropriations bills in order to reduce funding to comply with these caps. The Senate has been waiting for a budget deal before drafting its fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills. The new fiscal year begins on October 1, making it likely that a continuing resolution will be needed.

Medicaid/LTSS: House, Senate Approve Extensions of MFP, F2F Health Information Centers, Spousal Impoverishment Protections

The Senate and House of Representatives passed the Sustaining Excellence in Medicaid Act of 2019 (H.R.3253) on July 25 and 30, respectively. This bill adds $122.5 million for the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Rebalancing Demonstration, extends the authorization for Family-to-Family (F2F) Health Information Centers through 2024, and extends the spousal impoverishment protections for home and community based services beneficiaries until December 31. F2F Health Information Centers provide critical support to families caring for children and youth with special health care needs (and assist providers, state and federal agencies, legislators, and other stakeholders to better understand and serve this constituency). MFP has helped more than 88,000 seniors and individuals with disabilities move out of nursing homes and institutions. Independent evaluations have proven that MFP improves the quality of life for individuals and has reduced Medicaid and Medicare expenditures by approximately 23%. The spousal impoverishment protection allows the spouse of a Medicaid long term services and supports (LTSS) beneficiary to maintain a modest amount of income and resources for food, rent, and medication. This bill must now be signed by President Trump in order to become law. The Arc continues to push for a long term extension of MFP via the EMPOWER Care Act which is currently under consideration in the Senate.

Health/Rights: Health Care Anti-Discrimination Rule Comments Due August 13

In June, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)¬†of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new proposed rule that weakens the current interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits health programs or activities that get federal funds from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. The proposed rule would diminish the ACA’s anti-discrimination protections for people with disabilities. To learn more about how the proposed rule impacts people with disabilities, read The Arc’s blog post and this fact sheet from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) on the topic. CCD has also provided a comment template with instructions for submitting comments. Comments are due on August 13.

Miscellaneous News: Registration Open for The Arc’s National Convention

Are you ready to join advocates from all over the country? Registration is open for The Arc’s 2019 National Convention in Washington, DC. Whether you’re a professional looking to develop skills, a person with I/DD or family member trying to expand your advocacy and support network, or an ally interested in getting more involved in the disability community, we have a program that will speak to you. You’ll connect with other passionate advocates from across the country and learn how to navigate and work to improve employment, education, housing, technology, criminal justice, and more. Register today!

Autism: House Approves Autism CARES Act Reauthorization

On July 24, the House of Representatives approved the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 (H.R.1058, as amended). The Autism CARES Act funds 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. The Arc supports this legislation, which must next be approved by the Senate by September 30 in order to avoid expiration of the work done by the CDC and HRSA.

Family Support: House Approves Lifespan Respite Reauthorization

On July 24, the House of Representatives approved the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R.2035). The Lifespan Respite Care Program, through grants to states, helps build coordinated state lifespan respite systems, helps family caregivers pay for respite or find funding sources, encourages development of new and innovative community and faith based respite opportunities, and trains respite workers and volunteers. The Arc supports this bill, which must next be approved by the Senate.

Social Security: House Committee Holds Hearing on Social Security Financing Bill

On July 25, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R.860). The bill would make Social Security benefits more adequate by providing a modest across-the-board increase, improving annual cost of living adjustments, and increasing the minimum Social Security benefit to 25 percent above the federal poverty line. Additionally, it would create a single Social Security Trust Fund to simplify Social Security’s operations and ensure that Social Security is able to pay full scheduled benefits for the next 75 years through modest enhancements to revenues. The Arc strongly supports the Social Security 2100 Act. Testimony from the hearing is available on the committee website.

Income Support: The Administration Proposes Cutting Food Assistance for 3.1 Million

On July 24, the Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would cut current eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For the past 20 years, states have had flexibility to adjust SNAP eligibility to reflect local and state dynamics and to help low-income people to avoid a SNAP benefit cliff. Unfortunately, this proposal would eliminate that flexibility and cut off SNAP benefits for 3.1 million individuals. This change will also eliminate eligibility for free school meals for the children in those families. SNAP provides food assistances that helps approximately 11 million people with disabilities. The Arc strongly opposes the changes in the proposed rule. Watch The Arc’s video on the importance of SNAP.

Tax/Rights: Representatives Re-Introduce Bill to Improve ADA Compliance for 29th Anniversary

Last week, in conjunction with the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Representatives Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Bob Casey (D-PA) re-introduced the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act (H.R.4045/S.2290). This bill will double the Disabled Access Credit (DAC) and increase the number of businesses eligible for it. The DAC is a tax credit for small businesses that make renovations to make their facilities accessible. Additionally, the bill increases funding for the voluntary ADA Mediation Program in the Department of Justice and requires data collection and reporting on the types of calls received by the ADA Information Line.

Education: USCCR Releases Report on School to Prison Pipeline

On July 23, the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) released a report titled “Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities.” The report notes that students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to suspension. Additionally, it notes that few empirical studies have evaluated the intersection of race and disability when it comes to discipline. Recommendations include continued guidance and enforcement from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and Congressional appropriations to help states and school districts train and support teachers and provide an adequate number of counselors and social workers in all schools.