Major Events Last Week
Budget/Deficit Reduction – Joint Select Committee update
The Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Doug Elmendorf said his office had provided the Committee with a “tremendous amount” of estimates of the budgetary effects of different proposals that they are considering. This is the first such statement indicating that the Committee has developed specific deficit reduction plans. Also last week, the Senate’s “Gang of Six” (Senators Conrad (D-ND), Durbin (D-IL), Warner (D-VA), Coburn (R-OK), Crapo (R-ID), and Chambliss (R-GA)) met with the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction behind closed doors. This was first time an outside group has met with the full Committee, but no details were provided. Earlier this year, the Gang of Six released the outline of a plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years through a combination of spending cuts, a tax overhaul, and changes to entitlement programs. Included in their summary plan were the following proposals that would adversely impact people with disabilities: use of the “chained” consumer price index (CPI) in calculating cost of living adjustments for federal programs, repeal of the CLASS program, and large funding cuts in entitlement programs.
FY 2012 Appropriations – Senate moves forward on “minibus” spending bill
The Senate reached a deal on a Fiscal Year 2012 “minibus” appropriations bill, this first of several planned combined-spending measures intended to speed up the FY 2012 process. This bill includes the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill (T-HUD, which funds disability-related housing and transportation programs) and two other spending bills. Senators will resume consideration of the bill when they return from a weeklong recess and hold votes on remaining amendments. The Senate would then vote on passage of the bill. The Senate version of the T-HUD bill provides level funding of $150 million for the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program, while the House version funds the program at the President’s requested level of $196 million. Appropriators hope to finish work by Nov. 18, both to avoid another stopgap spending bill and to beat the deadline for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to issue its recommendations. So far, the House has passed six of its 12 spending bills and the Senate has passed only one.
Education – ESEA Reauthorization
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) approved a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by a vote of 15-7, with three Republicans joining all 12 Democrats on the Committee. The bill would jettison AYP (annual yearly progress) in exchange for goals set by school systems based on “college and career ready” standards and decrease the federal role in education by focusing federal intervention only on the lowest performing 5% of schools. Student performance data would continue to be reported for subpopulations, including students with disabilities, and up to 1% of students – those with significant intellectual disabilities – could be administered alternate assessments. School systems no longer would be required to develop teacher and principal evaluation systems. Senator Harkin, Chair of the HELP committee, promised to schedule a hearing on the bill before it goes to the full Senate. More information about the bill is available on the HELP committee website http://help.senate.gov/
Major Events Ahead
CLASS Program – House to hold hearing examining CLASS
In light of new developments with CLASS, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing to examine CLASS and will call witnesses from HHS and other experts in the field. The hearing will take place on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.
Some Members of Congress are calling for immediate repeal of CLASS. For additional information about the hearing, click here.
Budget/Deficit Reduction – Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to hold 3rd public hearing
CBO Director Doug Elmendorf is scheduled to testify on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the hearing which will focus on discretionary spending. This hearing will be webcast live starting at 10:00 am on the Committee’s website at: http://www.deficitreduction.gov/public/
Social Security – Hearing on Supplemental Security Income benefits for children
On October 27 at 9:00 a.m., the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources, will hold a hearing on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for children. The hearing will focus on oversight of SSI benefits for children, including trends, program growth, and recipient outcomes. Visit the Committee web site for the hearing announcement and to view hearing video.
Social Security – 2012 Cost-of-Living Adjustment Announced
The Social Security Administration has announced that monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 3.6 percent in 2012. This is the first cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in these programs since 2009. Increased payments to Social Security beneficiaries will begin January 2012; increased payments to SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011. For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums. Additionally, the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) levels for non-blind Social Security and SSI beneficiaries who work will increase from $1,000 to $1,010 per month. A Social Security fact sheet provides more details on the COLA increase.
Civil Rights – PBS Documentary “Lives Worth Living” Chronicles the Disability Rights Movement
This month PBS will air “Lives Worth Living” a moving documentary that chronicles the disability rights movement. To read more about this film click here. To find out when this will air in your area click here.
Americans with Disabilities Act – US Access Board develops guidelines
The US Access Board announced that it will develop guidelines to address acoustics in classrooms that are newly constructed or significantly renovated. For additional information, please see http://www.access-board.gov/acoustic/index.htm.
Emergency Management – FEMA hiring Regional Disability Integration Specialists
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was hiring Regional Disability Integration Specialists in each of its 10 regional offices. Advocates have urged FEMA to put disability specialists in the regions to help ensure that the needs of individuals with disabilities are addressed during disaster planning, response, and recovery efforts.