Senate advances Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 L-HHS-ED Appropriations bill, provides for mostly level funding of disability-related programs and a few increases

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) Appropriations Subcommittee quickly marked up and passed S. 3295, the L-HHS-ED bill, along party lines. The full Senate Appropriations Committee followed two days later, passing the bill along party lines by a vote of 16 to 14. The bill provides level funding for most disability-related discretionary programs, and included a few increases over the amounts requested in the President’s Budget. Highlights of the spending bill include:

  • IDEA —The bill provides $11.678 billion, an increase of $100 million, under section 611 of part B grants to States for educating students with disabilities between the age of 3 and 21. The bill also includes $463 million, an increase of $20 million, to support statewide systems of coordinated and early intervention services for children with disabilities two years old and younger, as well as their families.
  • Respite – The bill includes $4.9 million for the Lifespan Respite Care program, nearly double the amount this program received in FY 2012.
  • Assistive Technology—The bill provides $37.5 million, an increase of $4.7 million, for State assistive technology programs. These programs support a range of activities to serve people with disabilities, including State financing programs, device reutilization and loan programs, and device demonstrations.
  • Disability Hearings at the Social Security Administration (SSA)—The bill includes $11.736 billion, a $290 million increase, for SSA’s administrative expenses. This increase will support SSA’s efforts to eliminate the disability hearings backlog by the end of fiscal year 2013.
  • Promoting School Readiness for Minors in SSI (PROMISE)—In FY 2012, Congress created PROMISE, an interagency effort to improve outcomes for children, and the families of children, receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. PROMISE was created to encourage State-level innovations that can help young people with disabilities enter and succeed in competitive, integrated employment. The bill includes nearly $12 million and the authority to allocate unspent vocational rehabilitation State grant funds within the Department of Education for this effort, in addition to $7.2 million at SSA.

Despite the Senate action, this specific bill is unlikely to be enacted due to the differences between the House and Senate. The House Appropriations Committee is working with the $1.028 billion limit set by the “Ryan Budget” while the Senate is using the higher $1.047 billion limit set by the Budget Control Act.   Instead, one or more continuing resolution is anticipated to keep the federal government operating into the beginning of the fiscal year which begins on October 1, 2012.

New Guide available on Federal Funding and Support for Respite

ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center (ARCH stands for Access to Respite Care and Help) released a new guide: “Federal Funding and Support for Respite: Building Blocks for Lifespan Respite Systems.”  This guide lays out basic information about each of the federal programs that could provide respite funding or support. It is meant to be used by state Lifespan Respite Care Programs and their partners to help identify the funding sources.   It can also be useful to family caregivers or those who assist them in helping to identify sources of funding that could be used to pay for respite. The guide is divided into eight major sections which can be individually downloaded. One of the sections focuses on Medicaid and Medicare programs. The second section, Medicaid Waiver Programs, describes the largest source of federal funding for respite that serves all age groups and individuals with various types of disabilities and chronic conditions. The guide is available online.

Lifespan Respite Reauthorization bill introduced in House

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) introduced the Lifespan Respite Reauthorization Act (HR 3266).  This bill reauthorizes the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006, which aims to improve the delivery and quality of respite care services available to families across all age and disability groups by establishing coordinated lifespan respite systems.  H.R. 3266 would continue these efforts and provide for increased funding authorization levels.  To date, the Lifespan Respite Act of 2006 has funded thirty state grants to identify and coordinate respite services available through various state agencies, build respite capacity by recruiting and training respite workers, and raise awareness about respite through public education campaigns.  Learn more at the AoA website.

Six States Awarded Lifespan Respite Care Program Grants

The Administration on Aging awarded grants of more than $1.1 million to six states to implement the Lifespan Respite Care Program in order to reduce family caregiver strain and increase the ability of a caregiver to continue to provide essential care.  Grant awards were made to Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia to expand and enhance respite care services to family caregivers of children or adults of all ages with special needs.  Grantees will also strengthen statewide dissemination and coordination of respite care, improve access to respite programs, and enhance the quality of respite care services.  Read more about the grants.

$2.25 million funding availability for states

The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) announced the availability of approximately $2.25 million for Lifespan Respite. This money will allow states to establish or expand their Lifespan Respite Care systems.  AoA will award up to 12 states with $200,000 for three year projects. These projects must propose to serve all eligible unpaid caregivers and improve the access to respite services. Applications are due on Friday, May 20, 2011.  Letters of intent to apply must be submitted by Monday, April 25, 2011. For more information on this opportunity, go to: http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/Grants/Funding/index.aspx