Major Recent Events
Miscellaneous – House Speaker Ryan Releases Anti-Poverty Plan
Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) released, “A Better Way: Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility.” Among its recommendations, the plan proposes altering the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) childhood disability program to provide “…services in lieu of cash benefits…” The Arc and other national disability organizations strongly oppose proposals to end SSI’s modest but effective financial support for low-income children with severe disabilities and their families. Speaker Ryan’s plan also offers a number of proposals related to early childhood development, education, employment, housing, nutrition programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Unemployment Insurance, and related programs.
Tax – Ohio Opens Nation’s First ABLE Program
On Wednesday, June 1, Ohio became the first state to open Qualified ABLE Program. The program, referred to as STABLE, is open to qualified individuals nation-wide. An account requires an initial $50 deposit and costs $2.50 per month for Ohio residents and non-residents are charged $5.00 per month. Additionally, beneficiaries will be charged small asset-based fees depending on their investment choices.
Long Term Services and Supports – Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Gives Initial Approval to Two Additional State Transition Plans.
On Thursday, June 2, CMS granted initial approval to the Kentucky and Ohio State Transition Plans. Unlike Tennessee, which received final approval, these two states received only initial approval. Additionally, the approval letters strongly discouraged reliance on reverse integration. No state, except for the aforementioned three, have received any formal approval from CMS.
Prevention – Toxic Chemicals Reform Bill Heading to President’s Desk
On June 7, the Senate passed the legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act that passed the House on May 24th. The bill now heads to the President’s desk, where he is expected to sign it. The Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (HR 2576) will regulate chemicals so that they no longer present unreasonable risks of injury to health or environment. In recent years, many chemicals commonly used in every day products have been linked to increased risks for learning and developmental disabilities as well as cancer, infertility, and obesity. While the legislation contains reforms that should enable the EPA to tackle the worst chemicals, it falls short of what public health advocates have sought. Read a fact sheet on the bill here and learn more at chemical safety here.
Budget & Appropriations – Senate Committee Approves Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Spending Bill
On June 9 the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (L-HHS-ED) bill by a vote of 29 to 1. This bill, which funds the vast majority of disability-related programs such as education, employment, and protection and advocacy programs, would provide for $161.9 billion, which is $270 million less than the current FY 2016 level. There was generally little change to funding for disability-related programs from the FY 2016 levels. See proposed funding amounts here. Despite the advancement of this spending bill, one or more continuing resolutions at level funding amounts are expected as the start of FY 2017 on October 1 approaches. For more information, see the Committee’s website.
Housing – Landlord Accountability Act of 2016 Introduced
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced the Landlord Accountability Act of 2016 (H.R. 5401). The bill would ban housing discrimination based on a tenant’s use of a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. The bill also includes a number of provisions designed to improve living conditions in Department of Housing and Urban Development assisted multifamily housing, including creating a tax credit to incentivize landlords to make repairs to units. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Financial Services, Ways and Means, and Judiciary. Visit Rep. Velázquez’s web site for a summary of the bill.
Social Security – Return to Work Act of 2016 Introduced
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rep. French Hill (R-AR) have introduced the Social Security Disability Insurance Return to Work Act of 2016 (S. 3037; H.R. 5409). The bill would time-limit Social Security disability benefits for beneficiaries who the Social Security Administration (SSA) deems to be expected to medically improve or likely to medically improve. Benefits would terminate after 2 years or 5 years, respectively. Individuals would be forced to reapply in order to continue to receive Social Security disability benefits. In the Senate, the bill was referred to the Committee on Finance; in the House, the bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. The Arc strongly opposes S. 3037 and H.R. 5409 as proposals that would lead to the loss of critical income and services for adults with significant disabilities. Additionally, the bills would significantly increase SSA’s workload at a time when 1.1 million Americans are waiting over 535 days for a disability hearing (both historic highs), leading to even more people waiting and facing longer wait times.
Health—Bill Introduced to Add Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefits Under Medicare
Last week, Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, introduced the Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act of 2016 (H.R. 5396). The legislation would strengthen the Medicare benefit package by expanding it to provide comprehensive coverage of dental, vision, and hearing care. The benefits would be gradually phased in and would fill a gap in the coverage for the traditional Medicare program.
Social Security – Senate Committee Considers Nomination of Social Security Trustees
Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance favorably reported by a vote 14-12 the nominations of The Honorable Charles P. Blahous III and The Honorable Robert D. Reischauer to be Members of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, the Board of Trustees of the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund, and the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund. Consideration of the nominations by the full Senate has not currently been scheduled. Visit the Committee web site for statements by Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and for archived video.
Education – Dept. of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection Shows Continuing Disparities
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released new data showing persistent disparities in our Nation’s public schools between minority and non-minority students. Gaps that still remain for students of color and those with disabilities include incidents of discipline, restraint and seclusion, access to courses and programs that lead to college and career readiness, teacher equity, rates of retention, and access to early learning. Notable findings for students with disabilities in grades K-12 include disproportionate rates of suspension and restraint or seclusion. Students with disabilities served by IDEA (11%) are more than twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as students without disabilities (5%) and students with disabilities served by IDEA represent 12% of all students, but 67% of students subject to restraint or seclusion. Read OCR’s press release here.
Major Upcoming Event
Employment – Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA) to Hold Regional Meetings on WIOA Implementation
The RSA has announced three regional meetings to provide technical assistance on program specific requirements in programs established under that Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as reauthorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The meetings will be held on August 9th in Washington DC, September 7th in Chicago IL, and September 27th in Sacramento CA. These meeting are expected to be held in conjunction with the release of its new regulations. Specific topics to be addressed include changes to competitive integrated employment, employment outcomes, limits on the use of subminimum wage, transition services, supported employment, and fiscal requirements.
The Arc of Illinois
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