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Major Events Last Week
Budget and Appropriations – House may include continuing resolutions in ‘Megabus’ appropriations bill
As House appropriators finalize a spending bill before the government runs out of funding later this week, reports indicate that the deal implements a spending pact negotiated this summer and could sidestep one or more of the nine remaining overdue Fiscal Year 2012 spending bills. This could avoid resolving difficult disagreements by including continuing resolutions (CRs) to cover certain agencies and programs. House Republicans have been seeking to bar the use of appropriated money to implement health care reform and environmental protections. Democratic appropriators have considered using CRs for some of the most contentious bills, because that approach would block Republican efforts to use them to change existing federal policy. The most likely candidate for a continuing resolution in the overall appropriations package is the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill (HR 3070) which funds the vast majority of disability-related discretionary programs. Even with time running out, intense work continues to wrap up the remaining FY 2012 bills in a single package. The text of a final appropriations package is expected to be released late tonight, allowing a mandatory two-day advance publication before the House votes on it the middle of the week. Both chambers would be under pressure to act on it before stopgap appropriations expire on Dec. 16.
Employment – Proposed rule would set goals for federal contractors to hire people with disabilities
The U.S. Department of Labor proposed a new rule to require federal contractors and subcontractors to set a hiring goal of having 7 percent of their workforces be people with disabilities, among other requirements. The proposed rule seeks to strengthen the affirmative action requirements established in Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 obligating federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure equal employment opportunities for qualified workers with disabilities. Current rules require federal contractors to make a “good faith” effort to recruit and hire people with disabilities, but set no numeric hiring goal. In contrast, the proposed rule sets a 7 percent hiring goal and details specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping, and policy dissemination — similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities. Click hereto read the proposed rule.
Employment – Bills introduced to consolidate job training programs
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced the Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act (H.R. 3610). The bill would consolidate 33 of the 47 job training programs identified in a 2011 reportby the Government Accountability Office, including grants for supported employment and Projects with Industry authorized in the Rehabilitation Act (the bill would replace Projects with Industry with a new section, “Collaboration with Industry”). Vocational rehabilitation services authorized in the Rehabilitation Act would not be consolidated. Additionally, Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) introduced the Local Job Opportunities and Business Success (JOBS) Act (H.R. 3611). The bill would amend the Workforce Investment Act to increase the role of business in local workforce boards and their activities.
Employment – Bill introduced to reform Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) and 10 co-sponsors introduced the Rewriting to Improve and Secure an Exit Out of Poverty Act (RISE Act; H.R. 3573), an overhaul of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant (TANF). Major proposed reforms include increasing state block grants and indexing them annually for inflation, providing new funding for child care and subsidized employment, mandating guaranteed child care for all work-eligible parents, and requiring states to provide benefit levels that meet basic family needs. The bill would revamp work requirements to support education and training, and allow people with disabilities and family caregivers to participate in a modified plan of work or job preparation. The bill also would enhance screening for disabilities, and require detailed annual reporting on beneficiaries with disabilities.
Major Events Ahead
Social Security / Employment – Congress continues to consider payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance extension
Congress is expected to continue to consider extending the current payroll tax holiday into 2012, including combining it with an extension of unemployment insurance for long term unemployed workers. Social Security payroll taxes paid by employees and employers provide dedicated funding for the Social Security Trust Funds. To stimulate the economy, for 2011 Congress reduced the payroll tax paid by employees by 2 percent, from 6.2 to 4.2 percent of payroll (on up to $106,800 of earnings). Congress also directed general revenues into the Social Security Trust Funds to cover the 1-year reduction in payroll tax revenues. This payroll tax holiday will expire on December 30, 2011. Last week, two bills to extend the payroll tax holiday into 2012 failed in the Senate (S. 1917; S. 1931). This week, the House is expected to take up legislation introduced on December 9th by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) that would extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance. The bill contains a number of additional provisions related to Medicare, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, the Additional Child Tax Credit, and Social Security (see article below).
Health Care – Provisions included in Tax Bill
The House “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011” contains a number of health related provisions. The bill includes a two year relief from the upcoming Medicare provider cuts but pays for it with a series health care spending cuts. It makes several changes to provisions in the Affordable Care Act including a change in the low income subsidy for health insurance and an $8 billion dollar reduction in the Prevention and Public Health Fund. It raises the Medicare Part B and D premiums for high income beneficiaries (individuals earning more than $80,000) beginning in 2017. It also makes changes to the payments to hospitals in low income areas in order to save $4 billion over 10 years. A number of these proposals are not likely to be supported in the Senate or by President Obama but will likely be passed by the House early this week.
Transportation – Americans with Disabilities Act
The Department of Justice settled several complaints against over the road transportation companies. Claudio’s Trips, a California corporation; El Lagunero, a Texas corporation; Transportes Rivasand Watson Charter Services,Illinois corporations, failed to have any accessible vehicles in their fleets. All of the companies agreed to make accessible transportation services available to people on the day and at the time and place requested.
Americans with Disabilities Act – New Issue of Disability Rights
The Department of Justice posted a new issue of Disability RightsOnline News on its website.