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Major Events Last Week
Budget – Congress passes Continuing Resolution to fund the government through March 27, 2013
The Senate voted early Saturday morning to pass a six-month spending bill and sent it on to the President to sign. The Continuing Resolution (CR) would fund the government through March 27, 2013 and increase spending by 0.6% for most federal programs and agencies. The bill incorporates the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending level set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (PL 112-25) rather than the lower $1.028 trillion level desired by the House. Most disability-related programs would receive the small 0.6% increase over the amount they received in 2012 (Visit The Arc’s website
to see the FY 2012 funding levels).
Employment – Judge orders payment of $1.3 million to former Henry’s Turkey Farm employees with intellectual disabilities
Hill Country Farms, Inc. of Goldthwaite, Texas has been ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa to pay 32 men with intellectual disabilities $1.3 million for violating their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The payments are for work done by the employees at Henry’s Turkey Service processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa between 2007 and 2009. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC
) filed the lawsuit against the company for alleged employment discrimination.
West Liberty Foods contracted with Henry’s Turkey Services paying as much as $11,000 per employee per week for their work. Henry’s Turkey Services paid severely substandard wages of $15 per week to the employees, far less than the minimum wage earned by non-disabled employees in Iowa even though they were equally productive. The men lived in a 100-year-old former schoolhouse a few miles from the plant. The schoolhouse was closed down by the state fire marshal because it was bug-infested, had rodent problems, inadequate heating, and a roof that leaked in several places. Henry’s Turkey Farm had argued that it should receive credit for having provided living quarters. Henry’s Turkey Farm deducted about $1,000 per month from each employee’s wages to cover room and board and expenses and also took out hundreds of dollars per month from each of the men’s personal Social Security SSI and disability benefit accounts to cover expenses. Some of the men had worked at the plant for over 25 years.
The EEOC’s suit also alleges that the company verbally and physically abused and harassed the men by referring to them as “retarded,” “dumb ass,” “stupid,” hitting, kicking, unnecessarily restricting their freedom, and imposing harsh punishments and requiring them to live collectively in substandard living conditions and failed to provide proper health care. The EEOC’s trial on the remaining issues regarding mistreatment of the workers is currently scheduled for March 2013.
Employment – House passes resolution of disapproval of state TANF waivers
The House passed a disapproval resolution, H.J.Res. 118
, introduced by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), to prevent implementation of a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Information Memorandum (IM
) notifying states that HHS will consider state proposals to waive work participation requirements under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). A parallel measure, S.J.Res. 50
, was introduced earlier in September by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance, but has not advanced.
The HHS IM indicated “the Secretary’s willingness to exercise her waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.” The notice specifies that “HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF.” Examples provided by HHS showed the different types of projects for which a waiver might be granted, including “projects that demonstrate strategies for more effectively serving individuals with disabilities, along with an alternative approach to measuring participation and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.” The Arc supports efforts to secure appropriate supports and services for TANF recipients with disabilities, who are estimated to make up a sizable proportion of TANF recipients.
Congressional Schedule – Congress begins recess
Today, Congress begins the pre-election break leading up to the November 6th
election. Congress is expected to reconvene after the election to consider several issues relating to the budget, including the expiring tax breaks and the automatic across the board spending cuts.
The National Forum on Disability Issues confirms Edward M. Kennedy, Jr. and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) as speakers
The National Forum on Disability Issues
(NFDI) is scheduled to take place on September 28, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. This non-partisan forum is the only national event that brings together representatives from President Barack Obama’s and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s campaigns and provides them with a platform to present their candidate’s policy positions on disability issues. The Arc has joined more than 80 other national organizations in pledging our support as a co-sponsor of this event.
Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, Jr., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) are speaking on behalf of their respective parties at NFDI. Each of them will present their campaign’s positions on matters relating to Americans with disabilities.
Even if you can’t attend you can watch a live stream of the event or host a viewing party. To learn more visit the NFDI website – http://www.nfdi.org/webcast_register/
Health Care – The Arc Releases Analysis of the Affordable Care Act for Disability Advocates
Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), The Arc released a thorough analysis
of the ACA and the benefits for individuals with disabilities. Numerous ACA provisions related to both acute care and long term services and supports hold great promise for improving the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities.
The report summarizes major provisions of the ACA and the status of the implementation. To complement the longer report, a one page summary is now available on The Arc’s website
Employment – Department of Labor awards grants under Disability Employment Initiative
The Department of Labor announced
$20,654,352 for seven states under the Disability Employment Initiative to improve education, training, and employment opportunities and outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed and/or receiving Social Security disability benefits. The new grants are being awarded to Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island.