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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
On April 30, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) approved its funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The bill provides $189.8 billion in funding, a 7% increase over FY 2019. It includes several increases of interest to the disability community, such as an increase in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B funding of $1 billion (8%); $3 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Grants, $178 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level; and $245 million for Family Caregivers Services, an increase of $26 million above the 2019 enacted level. However, detailed line item information for most programs will not be available until May 8 when the full committee mark-up is scheduled to take place. While the House is moving forward with its spending bills, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said his committee will not markup any bills until a budget deal is reached to raise the spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. Absent a budget deal, NDD funding (which supports numerous disability programs) is facing a 9% cut in FY 2020.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report documenting the differences between states in rates of eligibility for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Eligibility for services for children ages 6 through 21 varied from 6.4% to 15.1%. The report attributed this variation to the flexibility provided to states by law. IDEA requires states to create their own policies and procedures for identifying children eligible for services. Additionally, the law allows states to adopt criteria for disability classification that are broader than the federal minimum. The report also notes that some school districts have difficulty identifying English language learners with disabilities due to a lack of staff who are fluent in the student’s native language.
On May 1, Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the Healthcare Extension and Accessibility for Developmentally Disabled and Underserved Population (HEADs UP) Act of 2019 (H.R. 2417). This bill would declare people with DD a medically underserved population (MUP). People with DD face a shortage of primary care providers, as well as higher infant mortality rates, higher poverty rates, and shorter life expectancy than the general population. The MUP designation comes with increased access to resources from 25 different government programs, including Federally Qualified Health Centers, Community Health Centers, loan repayment and training programs under Health Resources and Services Administration Workforce Development and Training Programs, and preference in research within agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. The Arc supports this bill.
On April 18, President Trump signed the Medicaid Services Investment and Accountability Act of 2019 (H.R.1839) into law. This bill adds an additional $20 million for the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program through September 30, 2019. 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 Arc strongly supports reauthorization of MFP. Additionally, the bill extends Medicaid’s spousal impoverishment protections for home and community based services beneficiaries until September 30. 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.