Autism/Family Support: House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Autism CARES, Lifespan Respite Reauthorizations

On June 25, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing titled “Reauthorizing Vital Health Programs for American Families.” The hearing examined four bills reauthorizing health laws, including the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act and the Lifespan Respite Care Act. Witnesses for these reauthorizations were Amy Hewitt, Director, Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota; and Jill Kagan, Director, ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center. Visit the committee website to review testimony and archived video of the hearing.

Research & Data: Supreme Court Blocks Census Citizenship Question

On June 27, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Department of Commerce v. New York. The Court ruled that the Administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census violates the Administrative Procedures Act. The White House has argued that the question will increase protections for minority voters while opponents (including The Arc) are concerned that it will deter immigrant households from taking part in the census. The decennial census provides information to states in order to determine Congressional districts and to help allocate federal funding. Undercounting of households would result in under-representation in Congress and fewer federal dollars for health, education, housing, employment, transportation and other programs. The Administration now has a limited amount of time to develop a new rationale if they seek to include the question in the census.

Budget & Appropriations: House Approves L-HHS-Ed Appropriations

On June 19, the House of Representatives approved H.R.2740 with a vote of 226-203. It contained four appropriations bills, including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-Ed) bill. The package is not expected to pass the Senate as written due to the cost and controversial policy language. The White House has threatened to veto it.

Tax: Representatives Introduce New Tax Legislation

On June 18, Representatives Richard Neal (D-MA) and Michael San Nicolas (D-GU) introduced the Economic Mobility Act of 2019 (H.R.3300). This bill makes various improvements to the earned income tax credit, child tax credit, and dependent care assistance, most of which last for two years. Additionally, it repeals a provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that imposes a tax on non-profit organizations that provide transportation benefits to their employees.

Education: GAO Report Finds Significant Underreporting of Restraint and Seclusion

On June 18, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing the underreporting of restraint and seclusion in public schools. According to the report, 70 percent of the nation’s school districts reported zero incidents of restraint or seclusion during the 2015-2016 school year. However, closer analysis found many school districts are recording zero when data is not collected or is collected improperly. The report concludes with recommendations for the Department of Education to improve accuracy in data collection and reporting.

Education: Bill to Improve Access to Accommodations in College Introduced in the House

On June 4, Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Kim Schrier (D-WA) introduced the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act (H.R.3086). The Senate version, S.1585, was introduced in late May. This bill would require institutions of higher education to accept a student’s individualized education plan (IEP), 504 plan, or prior evaluation as sufficient proof of disability. Additionally, it requires institutions to provide transparent information regarding the process of determining eligibility for disability services and to disseminate the information in an accessible format. It also requires institutions to report information on the number of students with disabilities served, their outcomes, and the accommodations provided. The Arc supports this legislation.

Employment: DOL Seeks Comments on Subminimum Wage; Deadline Extended to Thursday

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has created a national online dialogue on the use of subminimum wages under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. DOL is specifically seeking comments from people with disabilities, their families, providers, disability organizations, employers, researchers, and other stakeholders. The Arc supports building infrastructure and supports to increase opportunities for competitive integrated employment and has created sample comments for chapters and advocates. Comments can be submitted here by June 20.

Technology: Assistive Technology Act Reauthorization Introduced in the Senate

On June 13, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the 21st Century Assistive Technology Act (S.1835). This bill reauthorizes the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, which was passed to increase awareness and access to assistive technology. The proposed reauthorization clarifies that the program serves all people with disabilities, including those who develop disabilities later in life, and increases funding for programs serving rural areas. The Arc supports the 21st Century Assistive Technology Act.

Technology: Augmentative and Alternative Communication Bill Introduced in the Senate

On June 13, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Access to Free Speech for All Act (S.1836). This bill seeks to ensure that all individuals with significant disabilities affecting communication have access to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, services, and supports. It would create five training, technical assistance, and research centers focused on AAC. The Arc supports the Access to Free Speech for All Act.