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.
Last week, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced two bills that seek to preserve Social Security for future beneficiaries, including people with disabilities. The Fair Adjustments and Income Revenues (FAIR) for Social Security Act (H.R. 1984) would ensure that the Social Security Trust Fund is able to pay full benefits at least through 2057. This bill would do so by eliminating the cap that currently allows the wealthiest Americans to contribute a significantly lower percentage of their annual income to the trust fund. The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The Social Security Protection and Truth in Budgeting Act (H.R. 1983) would ensure Social Security trust funds are not used for non-Social Security purposes. Additionally, it would separate Social Security trust funds from the federal budget so they could not be used to artificially lower the deficit. The bill was referred to the House Budget Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. The Arc applauds the introduction of these two bills.
Rep. John Larson (D-CT) has introduced the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R.1391) along with 54 cosponsors. The bill provides for numerous improvements to Social Security benefits, including a modest benefit increase for current and new beneficiaries, starting in 2015; an improved annual cost of living adjustment; a tax break for over 10 million Social Security beneficiaries by raising the threshold for taxation on benefits for individual and joint filers; and a new minimum benefit that will be 25 percent above the poverty line. The bill would also make Social Security fully solvent for 75 years and includes a reallocation of Social Security payroll contributions to prevent a 20% across the board benefit cut in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 2016. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
The Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2015 has been introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 1354, introduced March 13 by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and 24 cosponsors; S. 730, introduced March 12 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and 5 cosponsors). The bills would provide permanent protections for tenants at foreclosure, formerly available under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (PTFA; P.L. 111-22, Division A, Title VII). The PTFA expired at the end of 2014. The PTFA was the only federal protection for renters living in foreclosed properties. It provided most renters with the right to at least 90 days of notice before being required to move after foreclosure. The Arc supports this important legislation to enhance protections for tenants at foreclosure, including tenants with disabilities and their families.
Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chair Sam Johnson (R-TX), and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced the “Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act” in both the Senate and House (S. 499, with 4 cosponsors; H.R. 918, with 10 cosponsors). The bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Finance and House Committee on Ways and Means, respectively. As previously reported, the prior week, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced S.343, the “Reducing Overlapping Payments Act”. While different in their mechanics, all three bills would reduce or delay Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for individuals who also receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) (such as, after attempting to work but losing their job through no fault of their own and therefore qualifying for UI).
The Arc strongly opposes cuts to SSDI benefits, including cuts to concurrent SSDI and UI benefits. As noted in a fact sheet by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, SSDI and UI are separate programs established for different purposes; receipt of concurrent SSDI and UI benefits, while rare, is both legal and appropriate. Cutting these benefits would harm the economic security of SSDI beneficiaries and their families, single out SSDI beneficiaries and treat them differently from other workers under the UI program, and create disincentives to work for SSDI beneficiaries. For these reasons, The Arc strongly opposes S. 499, H.R. 918, S. 343, and similar proposals.
Last week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) introduced legislation to replace No Child Left Behind. The bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and makes numerous changes to the law that give states more flexibility in the accountability systems and the alternative assessments. The bill consolidates a number of programs and removes the maintenance of effort provisions that ensure that states and local areas do not cut their funding and continue to receive federal funds. The House Education and Workforce Committee is expected to move quickly on this legislation. Disability advocates oppose this bill and urge the House and Senate to work with the disability community to include provisions to provide meaningful access to rigorous standards for all students and fully include students with disabilities in the education system.