Time to get back on the phones and say “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”
Major Events Last Week
Employment – Bill to phase out special wage certificates introduced
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3086, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011. The bill seeks to immediately end issuance of new special wage certificates for workers with disabilities under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to phase out existing certificates over a 3 year period. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has scheduled no action on the bill. There is no companion bill in the Senate.
FY 2012 Appropriations – Stopgap bill passes Congress
A stopgap spending bill cleared Congress last week after passing the House with a vote of 352-66, on Tues, October 4. This bill will give lawmakers more time to wrap up Fiscal Year 2012 spending issues. The continuing resolution (CR) will keep the government funded through November 18. This leaves Congress less than 7 weeks to finish FY 2012 appropriations, which they will likely do through an omnibus bill that includes all 12 annual spending bills.
Affordable Care Act – Report from The Institute of Medicine
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its report on Friday regarding policies to establish the essential benefits package under the Affordable Care Act. The report “Essential Health Benefits: Balancing Coverage and Cost” is intended to advise HHS on the critical issue in advance of HHS developing regulations. Marty Ford had testified on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities during the IOM’s deliberations. Her comments focused on the importance of including habilitation services and devices as an essential benefit and we are pleased that the IOM specifically recommended that habilitation services be a part of the package. The ACA requires that all health plans cover ten categories of benefits, including “rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.” However, the ACA did not define these key terms. The IOM report makes recommendations on how HHS should approach these issues but was not asked to recommend a specific list of covered benefits. HHS is planning to seek public input on this issue in advance of publishing proposed rules. The Arc will be reviewing the IOM report and will provide additional input to HHS on this important issue for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
Employment – House hearing examined modernizing the Workforce Investment Act
On October 4, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, held a hearing on “Modernizing the Workforce Investment Act: Developing an Effective Job Training System for Workers and Employers.” Copies of witness testimony and a video archive of the hearing may be viewed on the Committee’s web site.
Major Events This Week
Budget – Joint Select Committee meeting privately
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is entering the crucial stage in its efforts to identify at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction before the Nov. 23 deadline. While the Committee has held only two public hearings to date, it has been meeting in private. The Committee has not released any details on the private meetings, nor have they scheduled a public meeting for this week. The Arc will continue to monitor the Committee’s work. For up to date information check our website and action center.
Learn more about the Budget Control Actand how it may affect funding for entitlement programs and discretionary disability-related programs.
American Jobs Act – Senate to begin debating President Obama’s bill
The Senate is expected to begin debating President Obama’s American Jobs Act this week. The legislation includes several proposals that relate to priority issues in The Arc’s legislative agenda. These include reductions to the payroll taxes paid by employers and employees. Since payroll taxes fund the Social Security Trust Funds,to ensure solvency, these payroll tax reductions will have to be offset by additional revenues directed to the Trust Funds. The legislation also proposes a tax credit of up to $4,000 for businesses that hire people who have been unemployed for at least 6 months – a group that includes many people with disabilities. Other components are funding for infrastructure development, teaching, and public safety. The Senate leadership has proposed that the $447 billion bill be paid for with a 5.6 percent surtax on income above $1 million. It could be difficult to find the 60 votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate and no action on this plan is scheduled for the House of Representatives.