Education – Report on State ESSA Plans and Students with Disabilities Released

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) has released a report titled “Assessing ESSA: Missed Opportunities for Students with Disabilities”. The report rates states on whether their accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) include students with disabilities, whether they are developing support systems to help struggling schools meet the needs of students with disabilities, and whether the plan meaningfully includes and discusses the needs of students with disabilities. The report shows that most states had low long-term goals for students with disabilities. For example, New York’s long-term graduation rate goal for students with disabilities is 63% and New Mexico aims only for a 50% proficiency rate in mathematics and English language arts for students with disabilities. Read the report here.

Miscellaneous – New AoD Commissioner Appointed

Julie Hocker became the new Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities (AoD) within the Administration on Community Living (ACL) on October 1. Ms. Hocker joins ACL from the Charles Koch Foundation, where she served as a senior manager since 2016. In that role, she led several key initiatives to improve the foundation’s operations, including development of an integrated technology and data solution for fundraising, grantmaking and expenditures; redesigning process to improve investment tracking and enable better analysis of effectiveness; and creation and implementation of risk-management processes. Read more here.

Transportation – Senate Approves FAA Reauthorization

On October 3, the Senate approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 by a vote of 93-6. This bill includes numerous provisions that benefit people with disabilities, including required training for Transportation Security Administration officers on working with passengers with disabilities, increased civil penalties for bodily harm to a passenger with a disability or damage to wheelchairs or other mobility aids, a new Advisory Committee on Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities, and a study of potential in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems that will allow passengers to remain in their wheelchairs during flight. The bill now heads to the President’s desk.

Social Security – House Committee Holds Hearing on SSA’s Information Technology

On September 27, the House Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing on the “State of Social Security’s Information Technology.” Witnesses were Rajive Mathur, Deputy Commissioner of Systems and Chief Information Officer, Social Security Administration; Gale Stallworth Stone, Acting Inspector General, Social Security Administration; and Carol C. Harris, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office. Visit the Committee web site to review testimony and archived video.

Budget & Appropriations – FY 2019 L-HHS-ED Funding Bill Signed into Law

On September 28, President Trump signed into law a measure that funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) for fiscal year (FY) 2019 that begins on October 1. The measure also includes funding for the Department of Defense and a continuing resolution for other federal agencies until December 7. The package had been approved by the House on September 26. Most of The Arc’s priority programs were level funded or received slight increases and controversial policy riders have been removed. Additionally, $300,000 was added to fund the Caregiving Advisory Council established under the RAISE Family Caregivers Act and $5 million was added to fund Care Corps, a network of volunteer caregivers. Funding levels for The Arc’s priority programs can be found here.

Tax – House Approves Tax Cut Package

On September 28, the House of Representatives approved a package of three tax bills (H.R. 6760, H.R. 6757, H.R. 6756), collectively referred to as “Tax Reform 2.0” by a vote of 220-191. The centerpiece of the package, H.R. 6760, makes permanent the individual tax cuts from last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that are presently set to expire in 2025. The Tax Policy Center estimates that tax revenues would fall by $3.2 trillion over a 10-year period under H.R. 6760, on top of the $1.9 trillion that last year’s tax law is already expected to cost. The Senate is not expected to take up the measure prior to the mid-term elections. The Arc opposes Tax Reform 2.0 as it sharply reduces federal revenue, extends tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy individuals, and will create greater pressure to cut critical programs for people with disabilities. Read more from CCD here.

Budget & Appropriations -Senate Approves FY 2019 Defense and L-HHS-ED Package

On September 18, the Senate approved the final appropriations package that includes appropriations for the Departments of Defense and Labor Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) for fiscal year (FY) 2019 that begins on October 1, and a continuing resolution funding the remainder of discretionary spending until December 7. Most of The Arc’s priority programs were level funded or received slight increases and controversial policy riders have been removed. Additionally, $300,000 was added to fund the Caregiving Advisory Council established under the RAISE Family Caregivers Act and $5 million was added to fund Care Corps, a network of volunteer caregivers. The House is expected to vote on the package this week. Funding levels for The Arc’s priority programs can be found here.