NDSC is Working Hard to Protect LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)
Last week, NDSC received word that the US Department of Education (ED) was planning to release guidance in the immediate future that would likely make it more difficult than it already is for children with disabilities to be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Immediately, the NDSC Policy Team and members of the NDSC Policy Council began to take action to protect the legal presumption in IDEA that all children with disabilities will be educated in the general education classroom; except in the rare circumstance that the child cannot get a satisfactory education in that environment even with the provision of supplementary aids and services.
Money Follows the Person (MFP) Program Reauthorization Passes House; Calls to Senate Needed Now!
On June 18, the House passed a bill that included 4.5 years of funding for the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program. This is great news, but it is time for the Senate to act! Please call your Senators and urge them to pass the EMPOWER Care Act (S. 548) to reauthorize MFP. You can use our Action Alert.
The Money Follows the Person (MFP) program is a Medicaid program that has helped more than 75,000 people with disabilities and seniors move from nursing homes and other institutions into the community. First authorized in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 with strong bipartisan support, the MFP Demonstration program was designed to assist states with (1) supporting Medicaid enrollees who want to transition from institutional settings to community-based settings; and (2) developing infrastructure to promote and enhance access to Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). HCBS provides critical supports to people with disabilities to enhance their ability to be included and integrated into their communities instead of receiving care in restrictive, institutional settings. Each state can decide how to use the MFP funds, which they have used to expand or enhance HCBS programs, reduce waiting lists and fund housing supports.
Comment Today to Support Equal Pay for People with Disabilities!
This week the Department of Labor announced its new website, “the Section 14(c) National Online Dialogue.” The purpose of the website is to collect comments from the public about the impact of paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers with 14(c) certificates can legally pay people with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage, often times pennies on the dollar. Section 14(c) certificates are typically used in “sheltered workshops,” where people with disabilities are segregated from the broader community. The vast majority of disability advocates view Section 14(c) (created in 1938) as outdated, discriminatory, and reinforcing a life of poverty, segregation, and dependency on public support for people with disabilities. It is critical that you make your voice heard!
Input from people with disabilities, families, employment providers and employers is important. Share your perspective online here. COMMENT DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO FRIDAY JUNE 21,
Great news – the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873/S.260) was featured at a hearing entitled“Eliminating Barriers to Employment: Opening Doors to Opportunity” in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 21 before the full Education & Labor Committee. This is a very positive step towards promoting awareness of this bill and generating support for it, but we need YOUR help to get more cosponsors onto this bill so that it can continue to advance! Please contact your Members of Congress through this NDSC Action Alert and let’s build support for this bill.
Introduced in the Senate by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and in the House by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), this bipartisan legislation 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, this bill includes individualized wraparound services that provide them with opportunities for meaningful training and social activities in the community.
You can find a two-pager about this bill and additional resources on the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination website. For information about Competitive Integrated Employment, please see this new website developed with our partners in the newly formed Coalition to Advance Competitive Integrated Employment. Please #WorkWithUs and build more opportunities for competitive integrated employment!
Thirteen years ago, my husband and I were given the news that so many of you have also heard – your baby has Down syndrome. Ours was a delivery room diagnosis (and unfortunately not delivered in a sensitive way), and we were left in complete shock and confusion. We were expecting a healthy baby girl and didn’t even really know what Down syndrome was, and our lives were suddenly placed on a completely unanticipated and unclear path.
With the support of national organizations like NDSC and our local Down syndrome group, we began to adjust to our new reality. We plunged into the world of heart surgery, early intervention, private therapies and we started learning about the potential personal and systemic challenges that our daughter could face.
NDSC continues to advocate for the passage of the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873/S.260) and we need YOUR help! Introduced in the Senate by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and in the House by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), this bipartisan legislation 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. View a two-pager about this bill on the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination website.
NDSC Senior Policy Advisor, Stephanie Smith Lee, Speaks in Trinidad and Tobago for World Down Syndrome Day Conference
NDSC Senior Policy Advisor, Stephanie Smith Lee, spoke in Trinidad and Tobago last week at the UN World Down Syndrome Day Conference. The conference is hosted in part by one of our NDAC Group members, Down Syndrome Family Network.
Stephanie spoke at the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago on WDSD to Embassy staff, the media, and non-profit organizations about policy advocacy to create inclusive schools and the lessons learned in the US about how to create truly inclusive schools. As a featured speaker, she shared her knowledge of the lessons learned in the U.S. about inclusive education and the key role of family and self-advocates in creating positive change. Listen to one of her speeches HERE.
Employment Policy Update
NDSC continues to prioritize employment policy issues for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Much of NDSC’s work on employment policy is with the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination (more info HERE), a coalition of national groups whose mission is to push for major systemic reform of the nation’s disability laws and programs to advance economic security, enhance integrated community participation, and increase opportunities for people with disabilities so that they are able to lead self-determined lives.
NDSC is proud to be one of the organizations leading the effort to pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873/S.260). Recently introduced in the Senate by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and in the House by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), this bipartisan legislation 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.
While other bills have sought to phase out Section 14(c), this bill is unique in that it also includes a systematic approach to expand capacity for competitive integrated employment, particularly for people transitioning out of sheltered workshops. The grants provided under this bill would provide technical assistance and funding to help states and 14(c) certificate holders move to a paradigm of more integrated and innovative approaches to disability employment.
The 116th Congress convened on January 3, 2019. The House of Representatives shifted from Republican to Democratic control, and there are over 100 new Members of Congress. We are optimistic that the change in control of the House, which has led to a divided government (as opposed to one party controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress), will present more proactive opportunities to implement NDSC’s policy agenda.
All bills that did not pass during the 115th Congress are finished. Some will be re-introduced and look similar, some will be changed significantly, while others may just be dropped entirely and not re-introduced. Cosponsors will need to be enlisted again, and new members and their staffs need to be educated on the issues salient to our community.
Texas Court Rules Affordable Care Act Unconstitutional
The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) is very concerned by the recent ruling issued by a federal judge in Texas in the case Texas v. United States, which struck down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as unconstitutional. The Texas court ruled that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, and because the mandate cannot be separated from the rest of the law, the rest of the ACA is also invalid. (Legal wonks can read the actual opinion HERE; or a summary HERE)
In striking down the ACA, the Texas judge reasoned that in 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the coverage mandate because of the Congress’s power to tax. In the tax reform package passed by Congress last year known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the tax penalty for failing to comply with the individual mandate to maintain coverage was removed. As a result of this removal, the Texas court reasoned that the mandate is no longer a “tax” so the legal underpinning for the ACA has been eliminated. Even more controversial in his ruling was his determination that the mandate is “essential” to the rest of the law, so without the mandate, the entire law becomes invalid. This includes the provisions protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the ability for young people to stay on a parent’s health plan until age 26.