Major Events Last Week
Budget & Appropriations – House Committee Passes FY 2017 Budget Resolution
The House Budget Committee passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget Resolution (BR) on March 16 by a vote of 20-16. The BR serves as a blueprint for the next 10 years, setting overall spending and revenue goals. The FY 2017 BR cuts spending by $6.5 trillion over 10 years, at least half of which is to programs serving people with low incomes. The Committee supported the BR’s discretionary programs limits of $1.07 trillion for FY 2017, the amount agreed to in last year’s Balanced Budget Act. However, many only lent their support in exchange for the BR’s drastic cuts to mandatory programs, including Medicaid ($1 trillion), Medicare ($449 billion), and other unspecified mandatory programs ($1.5 trillion) which are expected to include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps). In addition, non-defense discretionary programs (which include education, employment, housing, and transportation) would drop from $518.5 billion in FY 2017 to $472 billion in 2018, a 9% reduction; after that funding would stay flat through 2026, eroding with inflation year by year. A surprise amendment to the BR also passed which would have tens of billions of dollars in mandatory spending cuts be attached to a “must-pass bill” this year to force the Senate to consider it. The House announced that the BR will not be taken to the House floor until after the spring recess. In the meantime, leaders already have agreed to consider a related bill. This free standing measure would cut mandatory spending by at least $30 billion over two years and $150 billion over a decade.
Health/Budget & Appropriations – House Committee Approves Major Cuts to Health Programs
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has approved H.R. 4725, the Common Sense Savings Act of 2016. This bill, introduced by Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA), makes major cuts to Medicaid and other health programs, many of which will negatively impact our community. These cuts are achieved by including certain one-time, lump-sum payments in determining income eligibility, such as: lottery winnings, damages received in a law suit or settlement, and inheritance; shifting certain Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program costs to states; and repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
Tax – Bills Introduced to Improve ABLE Act Program
On March 17, the six lead sponsors of the original ABLE Act introduced three bills in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to increase the age of onset for eligibility for the ABLE Act and to make other improvements to the ABLE program. They are: Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Pete Sessions (R-TX). Each has sponsored or co-sponsored all three bills in their respective chambers.
The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 2704, H.R. 4813) would raise the age limit for eligibility for ABLE accounts to individuals disabled before age 46. Currently, only individuals with a severe disability prior to the age of 26 are eligible to open an ABLE account. Many disabling conditions can occur later in life. Increasing the age limit for ABLE accounts will allow more individuals to save for disability related expenses in ABLE accounts. Sponsors: Senator Casey and Rep. Van Hollen.
The ABLE Financial Planning Act (S. 2703, H.R. 4794) would allow families to rollover savings from a Section 529 college savings plan to an ABLE account. Many families save for a child’s college education by opening a 529 account, sometimes before their child is born. They face taxes on their withdrawals for anything other than college expenses. The ABLE Financial Planning Act would allow them to rollover the funds from their 529 account into an ABLE account for their child. Sponsors: Senator Casey and Rep. Crenshaw.
The ABLE to Work Act (S. 2702, H.R. 4795) would allow individuals and their families to save more money in an ABLE account if the beneficiary works and earns income. Specifically, an ABLE beneficiary who earns income from a job could save up to the Federal Poverty Level, which is currently at $11,770. The bill would also allow ABLE beneficiaries to qualify for the existing Saver’s Credit when they put savings in the account. Sponsors: Senator Burr and Rep. Crenshaw.
The Arc will work with Members and their staffs to secure passage of ABLE improvement legislation, particularly with a goal toward a significant increase in the age of eligibility for ABLE accounts.
Employment/Rights – AbilityOne Commission Issues Declaration in Support of Minimum Wage for All People Who Are Blind or Have Significant Disabilities
On March 18, the AbilityOne Commission issued a declaration in support of minimum wage for all people who are blind or who have significant disabilities. Excerpts from the declaration state: “The U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, which oversees the AbilityOne® Program, recognizes there are strongly held positions about paying special minimum wages to people with disabilities under Sec.14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. … Our call to action is for all qualified nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program to commit to, and begin (if not maintain), paying at least the Federal minimum wage, or state minimum wage if higher, to all employees who are blind or have significant disabilities working on AbilityOne contracts. Our ultimate goal is to foster the development and implementation of training and employment best practices that allow employees with disabilities to be compensated at the prevailing wage paid to all other employees working on AbilityOne contracts. In making this declaration, the Commission recognizes that Federal policies have changed since the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act was passed into law in 1971. Today, the Commission and our society have higher expectations that, through increased emphasis on technology, rehabilitation engineering and other supports, people with disabilities will be able to participate as fully capable and productive workers. To remain viable, the AbilityOne Program must be recognized as effectively offering quality employment and equitable wages, including competitive integrated employment opportunities.”
Disability Policy Seminar—Online Registration Closes April 6, 2016
Please join us at the Disability Policy Seminar April 11-13, 2016. The program features sessions on the home and community based settings rule, Medicaid, education policy, and voting rights. Online registration ends April 6. Do not miss the opportunity to hear the latest on the issues and meet with your elected officials.
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423