On November 26, Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a tax bill. The measure has five main elements: technical corrections to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA); extension of 26 tax breaks (such as credits for biodiesel fuel and regional railroads); an overhaul of the Internal Revenue Service; tax breaks for disaster area residents; and retirement savings provisions. It is estimated to cost $53 billion over 10 years. Since the measure requires 60 votes in the Senate to pass, it is not expected to advance. Some Members of Congress have stated their opposition to making technical corrections to the TCJA unless other provisions that benefit the very wealthy and encourage corporate offshoring are changed.
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) have introduced the “Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018” (S. 3612). The bill would expand the Fair Housing Act’s protections to prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income or veteran status. Under the bill, source of income includes a Section 8 housing voucher or other form of federal, state, or local housing assistance; Social Security or Supplemental Security Income; income received by court order, including spousal support and child support; and payment from a trust, guardian, or conservator. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.
On August 1, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Economic Security for New Parents Act (S.3345). This bill allows workers to receive 12 weeks paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child by reducing their Social Security retirement benefits. Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) has indicated that she plans to introduce similar legislation in September. The bill does not provide medical leave or leave to care for a family member with a serious medical condition. The Arc opposes S.3345; read The Arc’s statement here.
On July 26, Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS) introduced the Healthcare Extension and Accessibility for Developmentally Disabled and Underserved Population (HEADs UP) Act of 2018. 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.
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has introduced the Disability Employment Incentive Act. This bill increases three tax credits for employers. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides incentives for businesses to that hire people referred by vocational rehabilitation, or who are on Supplemental Security Income of Social Security Disability Insurance, would be increased from $2,400 to $5,000. The Disability Access Expenditures Tax Credit will be increased from $5,000 to $10,000. The Architectural and Transportation Barrier Tax Credit will be increased from $15,000 to $30,000. The Arc supports this bill.
On July 26, Representative Bobby Scott and sixteen co-sponsors introduced the Aim Higher Act (H.R. 6543) to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Among many other things, the bill would require colleges to accept formal disability documentation from high school so the students no longer must re-prove their disability to receive accommodations in college. The bill would reauthorize the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities and teacher preparation programs that train teachers to educate diverse learners. The Aim Higher Act is the alternative to the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508) that passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in February. See the statement from the CCD Education Task Force here.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. John Larson (D-CT) introduced the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 3147; H.R. 6251), joined by 6 cosponsors in the Senate and 31 in the House. The bill would set Social Security Administration’s (SSA) administrative funding at 1.5 percent of overall benefit payments, a significantly more adequate level compared to current funding. The bill would also eliminate the five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the 24-month waiting period for SSDI beneficiaries to qualify for Medicare. Finally, the bill would implement a moratorium on all closures of SSA field offices and contact stations. H.R. 6251 has been referred to the Committees on Ways and Means, Budget, Rules, and Energy and Commerce; S. 3147 has been referred to the Committee on Finance. The Arc supports this legislation to strengthen administration and customer service across Social Security’s programs and to end unnecessary and harmful waiting periods that SSDI beneficiaries currently endure.
On June 27, Representatives Don McEachin (D-VA) and John Faso (R-NY) introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2018. This bill requires landlords of federally-funded housing units built before 1978 where children under the age of six will or may reside to conduct thorough risk assessments for lead-based paint hazards. In addition, landlords would be required to provide a means for families to relocate without penalty if a lead hazard is not controlled in 30 days, and to disclose the presence of lead hazards found in the home. The Arc supports this legislation to reduce exposure to lead which is known to contribute to learning and developmental disabilities.
Last week, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), together with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), introduced S. 1604, Transition to Independence Medicaid Buy-In Option, bipartisan legislation which would, as stated in Sen. Grassley’s press release, “create a demonstration project to encourage states to improve opportunities for individuals with disabilities to obtain employment in the community, gaining self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion.” Ten states, over a period of five years, would receive bonus payments for meeting benchmarks which are outlined in the bill’s technical summary.
Last week, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act (SSI Restoration Act) was introduced in the Senate (S.1387) by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and in the House (H.R. 2442) by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and 25 cosponsors. The bill seeks to restore the SSI program’s original intent of protecting beneficiaries, including people with disabilities and the elderly, against extreme poverty. The bill modernizes SSI resource limits for individuals and couples, to $10,000 and $15,000, respectively. These limits have not been adjusted for inflation since 1989. The bill would also update the general income disregard (to $112 per month) as well as the earned income disregard (to $364 per month) to the amounts they would be currently, if they had been adjusted for inflation since SSI’s inception in 1972. Moving forward, both the SSI resource limits and income disregards would be updated annually for inflation. Lastly, the bill would repeal the SSI in-kind support and maintenance provision as well as the SSI transfer penalty. The SSI Restoration Act was referred in the Senate to the Committee on Finance, and in the House to the Committee on Ways and Means. The Arc applauds the introduction of this bill.