Meeting with the Care Campaign today to discuss strategies to increase wages for
direct support staff, then on to Chicago to celebrate Governor Quinn’s birthday!

Tony

Capitol Insider

Note: As Capitol Insider goes to press, Congress is working to wrap up the 113th
Congress. Several critical measures, including the Achieving a Better Life
Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 (H.R. 647; see article below), remain pending
before the U.S. Senate. Look for a year-end edition of Capitol Insider after
Congress adjourns.

Last Week

Budget/Appropriations – Congress Enacts FY 2015 Funding Bill

The House and Senate have approved legislation, H.R. 83, to fund most of the
federal government through Sept. 30, 2015. President Obama is expected to sign
the bill this week. The legislation funds 11 of 12 appropriations titles for the
remainder of Fiscal Year 2015, and includes a continuing resolution to fund the
Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27, 2015. The bill provides overall
funding decreases for many key federal agencies, including the Department of
Education and the Department of Labor; the bill provides overall level funding for
the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. For the Department of Housing
and Urban Development, reductions in revenues will offset an increased
appropriation, resulting in an overall net cut for affordable housing programs run
by the agency. Most disability-specific programs received level funding or
adjustments at or below inflation; for instance, the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA) State Grants increased by 0.2% and the Vocational
Rehabilitation State Grant increased by 1%.  A few small programs received
increases, notably the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental
Disabilities (7% increase), and the Postsecondary Programs for Students with
Intellectual Disabilities (13% increase).

Tax Proposals – ABLE Act Passes House; Awaiting Senate Action

On December 3, the House of Representatives passed the Achieving a Better
Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 647) as a free-standing bill by a vote of
404 to 17 (with 13 Members not voting).  On the same day, the House also
passed the ABLE Act as Division B of H.R. 5771, commonly referred to as the
“tax extenders” package (Division A, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014,
provides for tax extenders).  A vote in the Senate is expected early this week.
The ABLE Act aims to change the tax code to allow for tax advantaged savings
accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education,
housing, and transportation.  Similar to existing “Section 529” education savings
accounts, ABLE accounts would let individuals and families save for disability-
related expenses to supplement, but not replace, benefits provided through
Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, the beneficiary’s employment, and
other sources.  If properly managed, funds in the ABLE accounts would not
jeopardize eligibility for critical federal benefits.  With a full understanding of its
features, individuals and families could use the ABLE accounts as another tool in
planning for the lifetime needs of an individual with long term disabilities.  The
version of the bill that passed the House includes age limitat ions and a cap on
contributions, added in July by the Committee on Ways and Means to reduce the
costs of the bill.  If the ABLE Act becomes law, The Arc will issue a fact sheet
reflecting the details of the bill as it has changed through the legislative process.
Further details must come through the regulatory process.

Housing – National Housing Trust Fund to be Funded

Last week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) directed Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac to begin allocating funds to the National Housing Trust Fund
(NHTF). Congress created the NHTF in 2008 to fund affordable housing for
people with the lowest incomes, a group that includes many people with disabilities.
However, until now the NHTF has remained unfunded. The Housing and Economic
Recovery Act of 2008 authorized FHFA to temporarily suspend allocations from
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the NHTF, which FHFA did on November 13,
2008. Last week, FHFA ended the suspension, meaning that Fannie Mae and
Freddie Mac will now begin setting aside and directing funds to the NHTF. The
NHTF will be administered by the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD), which issued a statement noting that HUD will “soon issue
regulations” to implement the NHTF. The Arc strongly supports funding the NHTF
to help meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities for affordable, accessible
community housing.

Social Security – Senate Hearing Focuses on the Importance of Social
Security for Women

Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on “Social Security:
Is a Key Foundation of Economic Security Working for Women?” Witnesses were:
Barbara Perrin of Eugene, OR; Catherine J. Dodd, Ph.D, RN, Chair of the Board
of Directors, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; Sita
Nataraj Slavov, Ph.D, Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University, and
Visiting Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; and Janet M. Barr, MAAA, ASA,
EA, American Academy of Actuaries. Visit the Committee web site to view
opening statements, tes timony, and archived video.

Medicaid – House Holds Hearing on Health Care Spending Priorities for the
114th Congress

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on
Health, Chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), held a hearing on “Setting Fiscal
Priorities” to hear testimony related to key policy decisions the Committee may
face in the 114th Congress related to health care spending by Medicaid and
Medicare. Visit the Committee’s web site to view testimony and archived video
of the hearing.

Civil Rights – Senate Holds Hearing on Civil and Human Rights in the
United States

Last week the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Subcommittee on the
Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing on “The State of Civil
and Human Rights in the United States.”  In his opening statement, departing
Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) played a video homage to individuals who
had been killed during police interaction, including Ethan Saylor, the 26 year old
man with Down syndrome who died during an altercation in a Maryland movie
theater.  This was Sen. Durbin’s last hearing as Subcommittee Chair as he will
be handing over the gavel to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for the 114th Congress.
Visit the Committee’s web site to view testimony and archived video of the
hearing.

Employment – 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.”

Direct Support Professionals / Long Term Services and Supports – Fair
Labor Standards Act Implementation

As the January 1, 2015 deadline approaches for implementation of the final rule
on “Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Service” (also
referred to as the home care or companionship rule), the Department of Labor,
Wage and Hour Division released additional resources related to shared living
programs. For additional information on the Rule, visit the DOL’s dedicated
web site for fact sheets, FAQs, and contact information as well as a series of
webinars.

Miscellaneous – New Subcommittee Chairs and Members Announced for
House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Last week, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Chair of the House Committee on Education
and the Workforce, announced 8 new and 14 returning Republican Members who
will be serving on the Committee for the 114th Congress.  The Committee has
jurisdiction over programs and policies important to The Arc and its members
including:  the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Head Start, the Higher
Education Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, equal opportunity
and civil rights in employment including under the Americans with Disabilities Act,
the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

A Final Note – The Arc Mourns the Death of Stephen E. Beck, Jr.

The Arc mourns the death of Steve Beck on December 8, just days after House
passage of the ABLE Act.  Steve was a tireless advocate for people with disabilities
and a founder and leader of the efforts behind the ABLE Act (see article above).
As the parent of two young daughters, one with Down syndrome, Steve was an
integral part of the leadership team on the bill for the last eight years.  Steve was
a natural collaborator and coalition builder and his work was critical in moving the
bill forward, even while he held a full-time job in an unrelated field.  Those who
worked with Steve admired him and his steady commitment and positive outlook.
We will miss him.


Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
 
Tony@www.thearcofil.org