Quick Update/Clarification: Medicaid Re-D and ISCs
One of the missions of The Arc of Illinois is to provide correct and current  information that is vital to the community serving individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The Arc of IL hosts many trainings throughout the year and holds it’s large convention every April. This April, a plenary speech was given regarding the timely topic of IL Medicaid Redeterminations. Prior to the day of the presentation, the actual power point was reviewed by IL Medicaid and the Division of Developmental Disabilities to ensure it was factual. Their suggestions were implemented into the final power point.

This convention speech seems to have initiated conversation about a possible disconnect concerning whose responsibility it is to complete the actual redetermination paperwork. While we are awaiting the forthcoming official bulletin from the Division of Developmental Disabilities, it should be noted that the ISC agencies are actively participating in assisting families with the Medicaid medical redetermination process.

We expect an official memo from DDD to be released soon (hopefully within the week) and will share it once it is out so everyone will be clear about responsibilities and process. 

Call Now!  They Deserve More
Time is running out for Kathy, 74, and her daughter Jenny, 43. Jenny is on the waitlist to live in a group home — but the DSP staffing crisis perpetuated by Illinois’ deplorably low wage reimbursement means that Jenny goes without key services while her mom frets about what will happen after she is gone. Read and share The Chicago Sun-Times story published in Sunday’s print edition.

Jenny and Kathy are not alone. Thousands of people with disabilities are on a burgeoning waitlist while agencies that depend on state reimbursements to provide wages to direct support professionals battle high turnover and not enough staff. Ben Stortz, president and CEO of Cornerstone Services, told The Joliet Herald-News that his organization is struggling to hire and keep DSPs due to low wages.

We need our elected leaders to make people with disabilities a priority. With just three weeks left in the Illinois legislative session, please send an email to your legislators and share The Sun-Times and The Herald-News stories on social media to elevate our issue above the noise!

ACL Announces Surprise Reorganization
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) was created in 2012 under the US Department of Health and Human Services to create a synergy and base for disability and aging programs and issues.  It has functioned very well since then, often being the backstop to issues that could harm these communities and offering the expertise and support to make sure broader policies are better implemented for aging and disability populations. ACL also houses the DD ACT programs, the P&As, DD Councils and UCEDD funding and administration.

On Friday, the Trump Administration announced an unexpected reorganization of ACL which includes separating the P&As from DD Councils and UCEDD administration (all three national organizations representing these bodies strongly oppose this shift).  It also proposes the creation of a new office – the Office of Disability Service Innovation and separates that office from a new Office on Intellectual and Developmental Disability programs. There will no longer be a Director for Independent Living programs (NCIL is strongly against this change) and current ACL Disability Commissioner, Julie Hocker, will take over as head of the Office of Disability Service Innovation overseeing independent living centers, P&As, Projects of National Significance, amongst other issues.

More to come in our analysis but we can share that so far, no national disability organizations have expressed support for this reorganization and those who have voiced their perspective have shared they feel it is contradictory to the mission and purpose of ACL and overall an inefficient restructure. Stay tuned to Capitol Correspondence for more! 

Budget & Appropriations: House Committee Approves L-HHS-ED Appropriations
On May 8, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) bill. The bill provides $189.9 billion in funding, a 7% increase over FY 2019. Most of The Arc’s priority programs received increases. Particularly notable increases include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B State Grants (8.1%), Lifespan Respite Care Program (33.8%), State Grants to Remove Barriers to Voting (28.7%), and Rehabilitation Services Administration Demonstration and Training Programs (26.5%). Funding levels for The Arc’s priority programs can be found here. Senate Appropriators, meanwhile, have declined to move forward with spending bills until a deal is reached to increase the spending caps for discretionary programs. Absent a deal, the spending cap for all non-defense discretionary programs would be reduced by 9% for FY 2020.

Child Welfare & Adoption: House Committee Approves CAPTA Reauthorization
On May 8, the House Committee on Education and Labor approved the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R.2480). This bill reauthorizes the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provides federal funding to states to address child abuse and neglect. This bill increases investments to address child maltreatment resulting from the opioid epidemic. Learn more about the legislation here.

Employment/Family Support: House Committee Holds Hearing on Paid Family and Medical Leave
On May 8, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing titled “Paid Family and Medical Leave: Helping Workers and Employers Succeed.” Witnesses were Marisa Howard-Karp, Member, MomsRising; Anthony Sandkamp, Owner, Sandkamp Woodworking; Pronita Gupta, Director of Job Quality, Center for Law and Social Policy; Suzan LeVine, Commissioner, Washington State Employment Security Department; and Rachel Greszler, Research Fellow in Economics, Budget, and Entitlements, Institute for Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation. Visit the committee website to review testimony and archived video of the hearing.

Income Support: OMB Seeking Comments on Federal Poverty Level Inflation Measures
On May 7, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a notice of solicitation of comments on how to measure inflation for purposes of determining the federal poverty level. The agency currently uses the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) to calculate inflation. One option being considered is the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U). The C-CPI-U will result in a lower estimation of inflation than under current practice. Over time, this change would result in people losing eligibility for these critical programs. The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is used to determine eligibility for several means-tested benefits, including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Tax/Housing: HUD Issues Guidance on Treatment of ABLE Accounts
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued long-awaited guidance clarifying that funds in ABLE accounts should not be included in determining a person’s eligibility for means-tested housing assistance. ABLE accounts are available to people with significant disabilities that developed before the age of 26, including those who meet the eligibility requirements under Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Money in an ABLE account can be used to cover “qualified disability expenses,” such as housing, education, and transportation. In general, to be eligible for some public benefits that many people with disabilities and their families rely on, including Medicaid and housing assistance, an individual is limited to no more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds, and other items of significant value. ABLE accounts are an option for people with disabilities to build savings without taking away their eligibility for these important benefits.

The ABLE Act states that amounts in an ABLE account or contributions to an ABLE account and pay-outs for qualified disability expenses should not be counted for federal means-tested programs. Consistent with Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration policy, the HUD notice clarifies that, for the purpose of determining eligibility and continued occupancy for a list of key HUD programs, HUD will disregard amounts in the individual’s ABLE account. Some people with disabilities and their families have heard confusing or inaccurate information about whether or not participation in ABLE could threaten their receipt of other critical federal benefits. The notice is good news for people in HUD-funded programs and should be helpful in addressing questions about the treatment of ABLE account funds.

Education: LPI Releases School Discipline Report
On April 18, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) released a report titled “Protecting Students’ Civil Rights: The Federal Role in School Discipline.” The report discusses the negative impacts of zero-tolerance policies and discrimination in discipline. It notes guidance documents and regulations the Trump administration has targeted for elimination, such as the discipline guidance and the significant disproportionality rule. Additionally, the report discusses strategies to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, such as teaching social-emotional skills