Policy & Advocacy Newsline ~ February 14, 2020
President’s Budget for FY 2021 Released
President Trump has released his Budget Request for the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 2021). This is the first step in the complex process of funding the federal government and is indicative of the Administration’s policy priorities. The House and Senate budget committees will review the budget and create their own versions, which will need to be passed by all relevant committees and through both chambers of Congress before becoming law. The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network has put together a plain-language toolkit of the budgetary process for those who would like more information about how this complicated process works.
Unfortunately, the President’s budget contains many cuts to programs that support people with disabilities, such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Our colleagues at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities have put forth an initial analysis of this budget.
It should be noted that this budget is not expected to be adopted by the Democrat-controlled House, which has very different priorities for funding and systemic reforms. We anticipate that the budget ultimately passed by the House will look very different from that proposed by the Administration and will not contain the same drastic cuts to many of the safety-net programs upon which people with disabilities rely.
New HCBS Infrastructure Bill Introduced
The HCBS Infrastructure Improvement Act has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). This bill would provide funding for critical infrastructure in states’ Home and Community-Based Settings (HCBS) systems, including around workforce, employment, integrated housing, and transportation. A House version of the bill is also in the works and is expected to be introduced next month. NDSC is supporting this bill and will ramp up advocacy efforts for it in the near future.
Medicaid Waivers for Block Grants Approved
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released a proposal, called Healthy Adult Opportunity (HAO), to invite states to restructure their Medicaid funding into block grants. Currently, Medicaid is financed by a federal-state partnership with an unlimited federal match tied to a state’s needs and funding levels. This new proposal would allow the federal government to cap the amount of funding it provides to states for certain Medicaid beneficiaries, including some people with disabilities, many direct support professionals, and other allies of people with disabilities who obtained Medicaid through the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We have serious concerns about this new model because states would be allowed to restrict eligibility, provide limited health care benefits, reduce access to prescription drugs, impose burdensome work requirements, and make other changes that could be detrimental to all Medicaid beneficiaries. If a state’s Medicaid needs exceed the federal funding cap, then states would be responsible for shortfalls, causing them to potentially cut other services (including long term services and supports for people with disabilities). For more information about these concerns, please see this brief provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The House of Representatives recently passed a resolution (H.R. 826) expressing disapproval of this new Medicaid funding proposal and asking CMS to withdraw this guidance. We anticipate that there will be legal challenges to this guidance as well. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact your state legislature, state Medicaid Directors and Governors to share your concerns about the HAO waiver.
Continue to Take Action on Two Important Bills
NDSC is still advocating for passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651, H.R. 1814) and the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873/S.260) and we need your help. Please call and email your Representatives and Senators and ask them to sign on to cosponsor these bills. Even if you have called in the past, keep those calls and emails coming! The cosponsor list for both of these bills has been growing as a result of your advocacy efforts, but we still need more.
· The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651/HR 1814) would raise the age of onset of disability from 26 to 46 for people with disabilities to have ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts. This change would enable six million more people with disabilities to become eligible to open an ABLE account. It would also greatly enhance the sustainability of all ABLE programs nationwide. Please use our Action Alert to call or email your US Representatives and Senators and ask them to cosponsor this bill.
· The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (TCEA) will address barriers to employment and expand opportunities for competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities while phasing out subminimum wage certificates under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act over a six-year period. In addition, for those who choose not to work, work part-time, or for whom their disabilities make it too difficult to maintain work in a competitive integrated setting, the TCEA includes individualized wraparound services that provide them with opportunities for meaningful training and social activities in the community. You can use this NDSC Action Alert.
Join us in March for Advocacy Training & Meet with Your Members of Congress!
NDSC has partnered with The Arc, AUCD, AAIDD, NACDD, SABE, the Autism Society and UCP to host the 2020 Disability Policy Seminar. The Disability Policy Seminar, which will be held March 23 – 25, 2020, features two days of informative sessions led by policy experts and offers opportunities for participants to discuss key issues with others from their same state. On the third day, attendees will meet with their elected officials or their staff to speak about the high-priority issues that affect them most. Registration is now open; we hope to see you in March in Washington DC!
NDSC is a proud cosponsor of the State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Students with Intellectual Disability that will take place October 7-8 in Syracuse, NY. This conference is a great opportunity to hear from and meet experts in the field, students, families. Are you interested in presenting at the conference? If so, go to the SOTA conference website to find out more.
TIES Center Update-NEW Inclusive IEP Brief
Ricki Sabia, NDSC’s Senior Education Policy Advisor, continues to work with the federally funded TIES Center on Inclusive Practices and Policies, which is focused on students with significant cognitive disabilities. Ricki focuses primarily on the universal technical assistance component of the project, which is aimed at parents, educators, administrators, and others across the country. This component involves the development of publications and other means of sharing best practices and information so that the work in the intensive and targeted technical assistance states can be scaled up everywhere.
Ricki has co-authored three publications, called “briefs.” The most recent brief (#3) is titled Developing IEPS that Support Inclusive Education for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities.
Each of the briefs mentioned can be downloaded by clicking the links. You can explore all the TIES resources including TIPS for educators. To find out the most recent information from the TIES Center, Like them on Facebook.
After Nick Harmon made news with the “UCCS student with Down syndrome and others with intellectual disabilities will get to walk at graduation” story, we got to chat with him and ask a few questions.
Q: In your own works, why was this topic so important to you?
Nick: It is important for me to be a part of my college graduation because I have been a part of college for four years and this is important to me like everyone else.
Q: How did you prepare your speech to the committee?
Nick: I worked with Jon to prepare my presentation to the student government at UCCS. Me, Jon, and two other students presented our resolution
Q: What was the most important part in your opinion?
Nick: It was important to have the support of all the students at UCCS
Q: What advice do you have for other self-advocates who want to make a change in their communities?
Nick: Stand up, speak out and believe you can make a difference
Q: What is your favorite part about the program at UCCS?
Nick: I love my classes, my friends. learning new things
NDSC will hold our second College Fair on June 26, at the 48th Annual NDSC Convention in New Orleans. This event is a collaboration with Think College and will be a great opportunity for self-advocates and families to meet college representatives to learn more about postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disability.
Colleges, community colleges, and universities may register to participate. A flyer with all the details of the event can be downloaded and shared.