On February 15, President Trump signed a bill funding the seven remaining appropriations packages for the remainder of FY 2019, which ends September 30. The passage of this bill means that the government will not be shut down over appropriations disputes until after that date. The Arc welcomes enactment of funding for the federal departments that administer programs important to people with disabilities, including the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Transportation.
On February 13, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee held a hearing on proposed legislation that would reverse current administration policies on implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as the reduction in funding for programs that assist with enrollment and the regulation allowing wider use of short-term limited duration health insurance plans. Witnesses included Grace-Marie Turner, President, Galen Institute; Katie Keith, Associate Research Professor and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University; and Jessica K. Altman, Commissioner, Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Visit the Committee website for testimony and archived video of the hearing.
On February 14, the Senate confirmed Attorney General William Barr with a vote of 54-45. The Attorney General is a cabinet level position in charge of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On February 5, the Department of Education issued an FAQ document clarifying situations in which schools can share personally identifiable information protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) with law enforcement. This document was compiled from existing guidance as part of a recommendation by the Federal Commission on School Safety to clarify the frequently misunderstood parts of FERPA.
Congress has until midnight on Friday, February 15 to reach agreement on a spending bill for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, State, and Transportation. Negotiations appear to have stalled over the weekend due to disagreements about funding for Homeland Security. If no agreement is reached, another partial government shutdown will begin.
Senators Robert Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment Act of 2019 (SWIFT Act; S.345). The bill seeks to fix outdated and arbitrary Social Security benefit provisions for widow(er)s with disabilities and surviving divorced spouses. The bill would: allow widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses with disabilities to receive 100% of the survivor benefit they are entitled to regardless of their age; give widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses the ability to increase the value of their survivor benefits beyond current arbitrary caps; enable widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses caring for children to receive child-in-care benefits until their children are age 18 or 19 if still in school; and require the federal government to proactively provide information to widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses about benefits they are eligible for, claiming options, and important deadlines.
On January 29, Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced two bills related to employment for people with disabilities. The first bill, the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (S.260), will phase out 14(c) subminimum wage certificates over six years and provides grants for technical assistance and provider transformation.
The second, the Disability Employment Incentives Act (S.255), increases three tax credits for employers. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides incentives for businesses that hire people referred by vocational rehabilitation, or who are on Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance, would be increased from $2,400 to $5,000. The Disability Access Expenditures Tax Credit will be increased from $5,000 to $10,000. The Architectural and Transportation Barrier Tax Credit will be increased from $15,000 to $30,000.
On February 7, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) introduced the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 (S.427, H.R.1058). 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).
On February 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to favorably report the nomination of William Barr to be Attorney General. The Attorney General is a cabinet level position in charge of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Visit the Committee website for more information or to view archived video of the hearing.
Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) will serve as Chair of the full committee and Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will serve as Ranking Member. Additionally, the following will serve as Subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members, respectively:
- Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education: Delegate Gregorio Sablan (D-NMI) and Representative Rick Allen (R-GA)
- Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions: Representatives Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Tim Walberg (R-MI)
- Higher Education and Workforce Investment: Representatives Susan A. Davis (D-CA) and Lloyd Smucker (R-PA)
- Workforce Protections: Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC) and Bradley Byrne (R-AL)
- Civil Rights and Human Resources: Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and James Comer (R-KY)
A full list of members can be found on the committee website.