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. The House is expected to vote on the package this week. 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.

Transportation – Senate and House Committees Reach Agreement on FAA Reauthorization Bill

On September 22, leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure, and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committees announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. The bill includes a section on improving air travel for people with disabilities and requires Transportation Security Administration officer training to include training on working with passengers with disabilities. The current FAA authorization expires on September 30, so Committee leaders hope to achieve final passage this week.

Social Security – Bill Introduced to Enhance Benefits for Widow(er)s with Disabilities

Senators Robert Casey (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Patty Murray (D-WA) have introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment Act of 2018 (SWIFT Act; S. 3457). 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. The Arc supports the SWIFT Act as a much-needed enhancement to Social Security benefits. Visit the Senate Committee on Aging to view a press release and learn more about the SWIFT Act.

Social Security – House Committee to Hold Hearing on the State of Social Security’s Information Technology

On September 27, the House Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the “State of Social Security’s Information Technology.” The hearing will examine “the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) information technology (IT), including modernization, management, and acquisitions.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.

Health – CMS Announces Navigator Grants

On September 12, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced grants awarded for the Federally-Facilitated Exchange Navigator Program. Total funding has been reduced to $10 million which is down from $63 million in 2016 and $36 million in 2017. Navigators are charged with assisting consumers in choosing health plans. The administration is also eliminating a requirement that grantees have a physical presence in the area in which they operate. The Administration is also encouraging navigators to inform consumers about association health plans and short-term limited duration health plans, which do not have the protections of the Affordable Care Act. To find the navigator grantees in your state visit this list.

Employment / Income Support – New Briefs, Video Highlight the Need for Paid Leave in the Disability Community

The Arc and the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota have released two new data briefs from the Family & Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) survey. The briefs look at the work experiences and outcomes of families of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and the need for paid leave policies. One brief focuses on parents raising children with I/DD, while a second brief focuses on family caregivers of adults with I/DD. In addition, The Arc has released a new video which shares a personal story highlighting the importance of access to paid leave for people with disabilities and their families. Learn more at https://www.thearc.org/paidleave.

Tax – House Committee Approves Second Round of Tax Cuts

On September 13, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a package of three tax bills (H.R. 6760, H.R. 6757, H.R. 6756), collectively referred to as “Tax Reform 2.0”. 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; H.R. 6757 makes various changes to retirement savings rules, including allowing penalty-free withdrawals for expenses related to birth or adoption; and H.R. 6756 makes various tax changes for startup companies. The full House is expected to vote on the package by the end of the month. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said he wants the measure voted on before leaving for the recess and the final campaign push before November. 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 the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities here and see the statement from CCD’s Fiscal Policy Task Force here.