Senate funding talks have stalled over disagreements over allocation of funding between the 12 spending bills (known as 302(b)s), funding for Planned Parenthood, and what constitutes a “poison pill rider” (a controversial provision that is unlikely to pass on its own). With only 10 working days to pass a bill before the end of fiscal year (FY) 2019, prospects for a government shutdown or a short-term spending bill are increasing. So far, the Senate has only passed two of its 12 spending bills. With the full-year funding bills at a standstill, Congress will need to pass a short-term spending bill by September 30 to avoid a shutdown. Meanwhile, the House is expected to vote on a bill this week that would fund the government until Nov. 21. If a short-term funding bill is enacted, funding for disability-related programs would remain funded at the levels the received in FY 2019 until another funding bill is enacted.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies is also scheduled to mark up the FY2020 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development bill (or THUD) on Tuesday, September 17, and the full Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill on Thursday, September 19. There are many important programs that impact of the lives of people with disabilities and their families included this bill. For information on how the FY 2020 funding bill could impact Housing Choice Vouchers, see this report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act is facing expiration on September 30. This law 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. The House passed the measure (H.R.1058, as amended) this summer, but the Senate has yet to take it up. The Arc strongly supports the Autism CARES Act and appreciates the increase in the required number of self-advocates on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee in the House reauthorization bull. If this law is not reauthorized, numerous activities within CDC and HRSA that help millions of people with autism and other developmental disabilities are at risk. Since the law provides a hard sunset for these provisions, it means that funding for these efforts after September 30 will treated as “new money,” making restoration of these funds extremely difficult to achieve. These provisions fund important research to help better understand and support those with autism and other developmental disabilities, critical surveillance and public education efforts, and interdisciplinary training of health professionals that help to screen, diagnose (or rule out), and treat children and adults.
On July 15, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule rescinding the Medicaid Access Rule. The Medicaid Access Rule is CMS’s means of enforcing the statutory requirement that states set provider reimbursement rates high enough to allow people to access the services and supports that they need. States are currently required to create an access monitoring review plan (AMRP) and to monitor selected Medicaid services. The proposed rule eliminates that requirement. The Arc believes that the Access Rule should be strengthened, not weakened. Comments are due on September 13.
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 assistance 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. Comments are due September 23.
On August 28 and 29, the RAISE Family Caregiving Council held its first meeting. This Council was established under the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act of 2018. Nancy Murray, President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburg at Achieva, and James Cheely, President of The Arc of Barren County, Kentucky were selected to be members of the Family Caregiver Advisory Council. The Council is charged with assisting the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the development of a National Family Caregiving Strategy. Visit the Council’s website and see The Arc’s statement for more information.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House will consider a continuing resolution the week of September 16 to prevent a government shutdown on September 30, the start of fiscal year (FY) 2020. Meanwhile, the Senate will begin marking up its full FY 2020 appropriations bills this week. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill, which funds most disability-related programs, will be marked up in Subcommittee on September 10 and by the full Committee on September 12. The House has already passed ten of its twelve appropriations bills earlier this summer, but with higher funding levels than those agreed to in the recent budget deal. It is unlikely that Congress will come to an agreement on full-year appropriations bills by September 30. The short-term spending bill is expected to run through late November or early December to allow lawmakers enough time to agree on funding levels.
On September 11, The House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will hold 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 live video on the of the hearing.
On September 10, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Housing Finance Reform: Next Steps”. Witnesses will include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and Federal Housing Agency Director Mark Calabria. People with disabilities and their families already face a national shortage of accessible, affordable housing, particularly the lowest-income people with disabilities, so it’s important to make sure housing finance reform proposals would not create additional barriers or increase costs in a way that worsens the problem. Visit the committee website for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.
The Arc recently released two new videos relating to deinstitutionalization and community living. The first video discusses the fact that 37 states still have state-run institutions for people with I/DD. The video features self-advocates and siblings discussing the need to close remaining institutions. Additionally, it calls for additional resources to make community living possible. The second video features self-advocates discussing what community living means to them. It calls for additional funding to eliminate waiting lists.