Congress: New Ways and Means Committee Members Announced

Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) announced the following new members of the House Ways and Means Committee: Representatives Ron Estes (R-KS), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and Drew Ferguson (R-GA). Additionally, he announced the following Representatives will serve as Ranking Members on subcommittees: Devin Nunes (R-CA), Health; Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Human Resources; Mike Kelly (R-PA), Oversight; Tom Reed (R-NY), Social Security; Adrian Smith (R-NE), Tax; and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Trade.

Education: Education Department Announces Initiative to Address Use of Restraint and Seclusion on Students With Disabilities

On January 17, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a new initiative to address the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities. The initiative will include compliance reviews, data collection improvements, and technical assistance. The Arc welcomes this new initiative and hopes for meaningful progress in reducing the use of restraint and seclusion, including passage of the Keeping All Students Safe Act. Read The Arc’s statement.

Family Support: Study on Impact of Caregiving on Workforce Released

Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future of Work Project released a new report documenting the near-universal nature of caregiving and the economic impact on companies. The report finds that “helping employees address their personal caregiving obligations is an approach employers almost entirely overlook as a mechanism for maximizing employee productivity and minimizing turnover.” The report provides solutions for employers to address this gap.

Research & Data: CHN, LCCHR to Host Census Webinar

On January 23, the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) will host a webinar titled “Census 2020: Why getting it right matters (a lot!).” Speakers include Mary Jo Hoeksema, Director of Government Affairs, Population Association of America, and Co-Director, The Census Project; Beth Lynk, Census Counts Campaign Director, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Deborah Stein, Network Director, Partnership for America’s Children; Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs; and Corrine Yu, Senior Program Director, Special Projects, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The decennial census is required by the Constitution and is conducted every 10 years. The purpose of the decennial census is to count people living in the United States. It provides the information to states in order to determine Congressional districts and it helps allocate federal funding. In this webinar, you will learn what will happen between now and 2020, how to advocate for a fair census, and what you can do to ensure an accurate census. The webinar will take place on January 23 at 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. Register here.

Medicaid/LTSS: House Approves MFP Extension

On January 8, the House of Representatives approved H.R.259, which extends the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Program until September 30. The MFP program 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 protection for home and community-based services beneficiaries until March 31. 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. The bill must now receive Senate approval. Contact your Senators using our action alert.

Budget and Appropriations: Partial Government Shutdown Continues

The partial government shutdown continues this week. Many agencies, including those under the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, remain open and are largely unaffected due to the passage of full-year appropriation bills earlier in 2018. Employees at several other agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, State, and Homeland Security, are furloughed unless they are classified as “excepted.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not allow a vote on the omnibus appropriations bill or Homeland Security continuing resolutions passed by the House on January 3. Last week, the House passed several individual appropriations packages. McConnell has indicated that he does not intend to allow votes on these measures either. The Arc supports restoring funding for the remaining federal agencies.

Miscellaneous News: New Finance, Ways and Means Committees Members Announced

The Senate Finance Committee recently announced new members, including Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Steve Daines (R-MT), Todd Young (R-IN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV). Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) announced the following new Democratic Members of the House Ways and Means Committee: Gwen Moore (D-WI), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Steven Horsford (D-NV).

Tax: California Opens Qualified ABLE Program

In December, California opened a new Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program, bringing the total number of jurisdictions with ABLE programs to 42. The program is open to all eligible individuals nationwide. It has three investment options and a savings option. The program has an annual maintenance fee of $37 and an additional $10 annual fee for those selecting paper statements. Asset-based fees for investments options range from 0.52% to 0.54%. More information about state implementation of the ABLE Act can be found here.

Budget and Appropriations: Congress Fails to Enact Appropriations; Government Enters Partial Shutdown

Due to a failure to enact appropriations or a continuing resolution, parts of the federal government shut down on December 22, 2018. Many agencies, including those under the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, remain open and are largely unaffected due to the passage of full-year appropriation bills earlier in 2018. Employees at several other agencies, including the Department of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, State, and Homeland Security, are furloughed unless they are classified as “excepted.”

On January 3, the newly-seated House of Representatives approved two bills: one to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels (and not including funding for the border wall with Mexico that President Trump is seeking) until February 8, and another to fund all other unfunded agencies based on levels approved by bipartisan majorities of the Senate Appropriations Committee in the previous Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that he does not intend to allow votes on these measures. The Arc supports promptly restoring funding for agencies funded through the Commerce, Justice, and Science, and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations packages as these agencies operate programs important to people with disabilities. House Democrats plan to introduce individual agency spending bills this week.

Miscellaneous News: 116th Congress Convenes, Committee Assignments Announced

On January 3, the 116th Congress began, and most newly-elected members were formally sworn in. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. The new Congress includes 9 freshman Senators and 93 freshman Representatives.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) has announced chairs for the committee’s 12 subcommittees. Among the changes, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will now chair the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee; Rep. David Price (D-NC) will chair the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Subcommittee; and Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) will chair the Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration Subcommittee.