Immigration/Rights – The Arc Condemns Family Separations and Calls on Congress to Act

Recently, the Administration announced a change in immigration policy that has resulted in children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Historically, crossing the border illegally was considered a civil offense and parents were able to stay with their children while legal proceedings were carried out (for example, to determine whether the family qualified for asylum). Under the new policy, crossing the border illegally is considered a criminal offense. Children are not allowed to stay with their parents while criminal proceedings are carried out because adult detention facilities cannot ensure child safety. Last Friday The Arc released a statement regarding the forced immigrant family separations that are occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border. “The Arc stands with the immigrant community and the many organizations and individuals that have come out in opposition to this abhorrent practice,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “The notion of uniformed, federal border protection agents forcibly separating parents from their children is outrageous.” Read The Arc’s full statement here.

Health – Department of Justice Announces It Will Not Defend Key Provisions of the ACA

On June 7, the Department of Justice announced that it will not defend key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality. The lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other states, argues that since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the penalty for not purchasing insurance to $0, it no longer raises revenue, and is therefore no longer constitutional under the tax powers of Congress. Furthermore, they argue that if the court strikes down the individual mandate, the rest of the ACA must also be struck down. The Department of Justice response argues that the individual mandate is unconstitutional but other provisions of the ACA should remain intact. The Administration further asserts that two critical protections for people with pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue and community rating provisions, are unenforceable. Guaranteed issue is the provision that prevents denial of coverage based on health status and community rating helps keep insurance affordable for people with health conditions. California and sixteen other states have filed a motion to intervene, which would allow them to defend the law. Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc submitted a declaration in support of California’s motion to intervene. Read The Arc’s statement here.

Autism – Autism Prevalence Estimates Increase by Nearly 16%

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing that the estimated prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continues to rise. The new rate of 1 in 59 is based on data collected in 2014 and reflects a nearly 16% increase from two years ago; CDC data from 2012 showed that an estimated 1 in 68 children had ASD. Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, stated: “The new prevalence rates underscore the need to reauthorize the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act which expires next year. This law is the primary vehicle for federal funding for surveillance, autism research, screening and diagnostic services, and professional training.” Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), one of the lead sponsors of the Autism CARES Act issued this statement. Read The Arc’s statement on the new prevalence rates.

Income Support – President Issues New Executive Order on “Economic Mobility”

Last week, President Trump issued an Executive Order on “Economic Mobility.” The order requires the Secretaries of the Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education to review their programs and, within 90 days, identify steps and recommendations to establish or expand work requirements in their programs. In response, The Arc’s CEO, Peter V. Berns, said, “If you read between the lines of this executive order, it is a blueprint for sweeping changes that penalize people who are unemployed, across multiple programs. From Medicaid, to housing, to food assistance and other programs – this will result in new barriers to eligibility and denial of critical services. The call for increased economic opportunity is not backed up with provision of tools for individuals to succeed.” Read The Arc’s full statement.

Health Care/Medicaid – Senate Version of Health Care/Medicaid Bill Released, Drawing Condemnation from Disability Advocates

On June 22, 2017, the Senate Budget Committee released a discussion draft of health care reform legislation, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”  Some Senators are claiming that provisions have been added to this bill to protect people with disabilities. However, provisions related to people with disabilities are wholly inadequate.  Click here to see key points on why the disability provisions fail to provide any meaningful protections for people with disabilities.

The Senate draft is substantially similar to the harmful bill (H.R 1628) passedby the House in May.  Among other things, both measures radically restructure the financing of the Medicaid program to pay for the repeal of the tax provisions and other revenue producing provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  As a result, deep cuts to health care and community living supports for low income people would be used to fund tax breaks that largely benefit corporations and wealthy individuals.

Reactions to the Senate draft were swift and overwhelmingly negative from the disability community and others, evidenced by a highly-publicized protest in the Senate. Click here to watch MSNBC’s coverage of the protest which included numerous arrests and an extensive analysis of Medicaid’s significance to people with disabilities.

As The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns noted in his statement on the day the Senate draft was released, “This bill will have a devastating impact on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Make no mistake – people’s lives and independence are on the line.”

Budget & Appropriations – President Releases Full Budget

Last week, President Trump released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Unlike the FY 2018 “skinny” budget released in March, this one includes all parts of the federal budget and includes 10-year spending proposals, through FY 2027. As outlined in The Arc’s statement, on top of the more than $830 billion in Medicaid cuts already approved by the House of Representatives, the budget proposes an additional $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid; $72 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs; and hundreds of billions more in cuts to other effective federal programs that are vital to people with disabilities and their families.

“Where we invest our federal dollars is a measure of our values as a nation. Today the Trump Administration showed its cards, and coupled with the devastating Medicaid cuts already approved by the House of Representatives in the health care bill, the deck is stacked against people with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO, The Arc. Learn more in The Arc’s full statement on the President’s budget proposal.

Report Released on FY 2013 Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch

The Office of Personnel Management has released its Fiscal Year 2013 report on “Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch.” In Fiscal Year 2013, the federal government hired 1,389 people with targeted disabilities – a category that includes many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) – representing 1.32 percent of new hires overall. Report statistics on targeted disabilities, however, are presented in the aggregate and do not specify numbers related to the hiring of people with I/DD. In a recent press release, Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc, stated, “While the last few years have seen some modest increases in the numbers of people with disabilities employed by the federal government, The Arc remains deeply concerned that many people with the most significant disabilities, including jobseekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are being left behind.”

Priced Out in 2012 Documents Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities

Last week, the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) and the CCD Housing Task Force released a new study, Priced Out in 2012, which documents the housing crisis for people with disabilities. The study compares Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) average fair market rents for one bedroom and efficiency apartments with the average Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit for a person with a disability living in the community. Priced Out in 2012 finds that the national average rent for a modestly priced one bedroom apartment is greater than the entire SSI payment of a person with a disability. The study provides data for all states and 2,572 housing market areas across the nation.

In a statement, The Arc’s CEO Peter V. Berns noted that Priced Out highlights the need for programs like the new HUD Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) Demonstration, stating, “Having a safe place to call home is a basic human right and we have a responsibility to ensure individuals with disabilities are given the chance find a home in the community they choose. The Arc calls on Congress to adequately fund the Section 811 PRA Demonstration to help address the housing crisis for people with disabilities.”

The Arc’s Peter Berns speaks out in Washington to protect Social Security from harmful cuts

Many programs vital to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have been at risk of deep cuts during the recent deficit reduction negotiations. Social Security is still in danger of being cut as Members of Congress consider a proposal to change the way benefits are calculated.  This shift to what is called the “chained CPI” is a cut to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Cuts from the “chained CPI” get bigger every year and could have horrible consequences for people with I/DD over time.

Last week, The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns was invited to speak at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol, organized by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Berns was joined by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and representatives from other organizations whose constituencies would be impacted by this benefit cut. To read more visit our blog.

The Arc at the Table with President Obama to Discuss Tax Cuts for the Middle Class, Budget and Medicaid

Last week, The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns participated in a small meeting with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior economic advisors about the President’s goal to stop middle class tax increases and to raise revenues to help invest in the nation and reduce the deficit.  The discussion centered on the urgency of passing a plan to avert raising taxes on the middle class and to raise revenues to finance the federal government without allowing drastic cuts to programs that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and other vulnerable groups rely on, like education, housing, and employment.  These cuts are scheduled to take place on January 1, 2013, along with the expiration of a variety of tax provisions. To read more visit our blog.