Policy & Advocacy Newsline ~ April 2021

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Increased COVID-19 Vaccine Access for People with Disabilities

On March 29, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced $100 million in state and local grants to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines for people with disabilities. This funding will be used to deal with the significant barriers to vaccination that people with disabilities are facing and will be used to provide assistance with scheduling vaccination appointments, direct support services to attend these appointments, education about the importance of receiving the vaccine, transportation to vaccination sites, and connecting people with disabilities to in-home vaccination options, and a national hotline. For vaccine resources relating to people with disabilities, see ACL’s COVID webpages as well as the Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities.

New Home and Community-Based Services Draft Bill

A discussion draft of the new HCBS Access Act has been released by Congresswoman Dingell (D-MI), Senator Hassan (D-NH), Senator Casey (D-PA), and Senator Brown (D-OH). This draft bill would establish a mandate to require Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) to provide services, create national minimum requirements for HCBS, make it possible to improve upon those services and the direct support professionals workforce.

Read more about the draft bill

To build on the discussion draft, the Congressional offices are currently seeking feedback on:

  • Provider pay and rate structures of states for HCBS;
  • Workforce development, including but not limited to wages and benefits for direct service workers and personal care attendants as well as training and recruitment;
  • HCBS infrastructure in states that support family caregivers, provider agencies, and independent providers, including but not limited to housing, transportation, employment, and enrollment systems and processes;
  • Other related policies and programs such as Money Follows the Person and Spousal Impoverishment Protections; and
  • Many other critical items to further expand and improve access to HCBS for those who desire the supports.

Stakeholders’ feedback is requested by April 26. If you would like to provide feedback on the bill text in any of these areas,  email HCBSComments@aging.senate.gov.

NDSC is involved in a workgroup to improve this bill and looks forward to its eventual introduction in Congress.

Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act

The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (TCIEA) (HR2373), championed by bipartisan cosponsors Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), has been introduced in the House Committee on Education and Labor. This bill calls for the phase-out of subminimum wage under Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act and would provide a simultaneous investment in resources to help states and employers transition workers with disabilities into competitive integrated employment (CIE) in their communities. NDSC supports this bill and has been meeting with Hill staff.  We are also working to build cosponsors. The House Committee on Education and Labor fact produced a fact sheet about TCIEA and a section-by-section breakdown of the bill.

Opportunity to Participate in National Dialogue on Racial & Social Equity in Employment for People with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) invites all stakeholders to share their ideas for promoting equity in employment by joining a national online dialogue on advancing racial and social equity in employment for people with disabilities beginning April 12. The goal of this virtual dialogue is to gather input on how USDOL can promote equity in employment policies and programs for people with disabilities from historically underserved communities, people with mental health conditions, those recovering from long-term effects of COVID-19, and job seekers and workers with disabilities. ODEP welcomes ideas from those who identify with these groups and all members of the public interested in advancing racial and social equity in employment for people with disabilities. ODEP welcomes ideas from those who identify with these groups and all members of the public interested in advancing racial and social equity in employment for people with disabilities. Your input will help inform ODEP’s work to remove barriers to opportunity for people with disabilities and ensure access to good jobs.  All ideas are welcome, but ODEP is specifically interested in input on:

  • Challenges faced by workers and job seekers with disabilities;
  • Ways to reach job seekers and employees with disabilities in underserved communities;
  • Examples of programs or policies that advance racial and social equity in employment;
  • Methods for assisting employers, workers, and other stakeholders.

You can join this important conversation any time from April 12 through 26 by visiting the online dialogue site and submitting your ideas or commenting and voting on ideas submitted by others.

Infrastructure Proposal Includes Substantial Investment in HCBS

On March 31, 2021, President Biden released The American Jobs Plan. This major infrastructure proposal addresses traditional infrastructures like roads and bridges and virtual infrastructure such as internet access. Most notably, this plan includes a $400 billion investment in the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) system. This funding can be used for essential components of HCBS such as providing services, eliminating waiting lists, supporting and growing the direct care workforce, and otherwise supporting people with disabilities and unpaid caregivers. According to a new brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the potential impact of this additional funding on each state’s HCBS system is very powerful. The American Jobs Plan also calls for an end to subminimum wages for people with disabilities and would provide funding to modernize disability employment supports to allow for competitive integrated employment. Congress will now consider this plan in the development of related legislation. Please call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to include HCBS funding from the American Jobs Plan in the Congressional proposals being developed.

To reach your members of Congress, visit Congress.gov, or you may call the Capitol Switchboard at 202 224-3121 (voice) or (202) 224-3091 (TTY) to be connected with their offices.

President’s Budget Proposal Contains Increased Resources for People with Disabilities

On April 9, 2021, the Administration released its appropriations proposals in non-defense discretionary funding for Fiscal Year 2022. This proposal is a 16% increase over FY2021 and includes many significant increases in programs that support people with disabilities, such as:

  •  Education:
    • $15.5 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) (+ $2.6 billion)
  • Health and Human Services:
    • $8.7 billion for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (+ $1.6 billion)
    • $51 billion for National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    • $551 for Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS)
  • Social Security Administration:
    • $14.2 billion (+ $1.3 billion)

In detailing proposed appropriations for education, the budget summary states:To ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to thrive, the discretionary request includes $15.5 billion, a $2.6 billion increase, for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants that would provide support for special education and related services for more than 7.5 million Pre-K through 12 students special education and related services for more than 7.5 million Pre-K through 12 students.” This is a significant first step toward fully funding IDEA. The discretionary request also provides $732 million for early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays, funding services that have a proven record of improving academic and developmental outcomes. The $250 million increase would support reforms to expand access to these services for underserved children, including children of color and children from low-income families.”  Congress will now use the President’s proposal in its budget negotiations.

Read the discretionary budget summary,

Questions about this complicated process? The Autistic Self Advocacy Network has developed a plain-language toolkit explaining the budget process.

Dr Vellody/Ricki Sabia Podcast

Podcast Interview with Ricki Sabia on Inclusion

Dr. Kishore Vellody, NDSC Immediate Past President and Medical Director of the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA, recently interviewed Ricki Sabia, NDSC Senior Education Policy Advisor, in a podcast to be included in the UPMC ongoing series. Their discussion focused on inclusive education, drawing on Ricki’s education policy expertise and her son, Steve’s, educational experiences.

Lisen at https://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/18640052

School Reopening Principles and Policy Discussion

NDSC has been busy working on school reopening principles and attending meetings relating to policy implications for schools reopening after closures due to the pandemic.

CCD School Reopening Principles: NDSC joined with other members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Education Task Force to develop school reopening principles which were shared with the U.S. Department of Education.

Meeting with Secretary of Education Cardona and Resources for School Reopening: On Tuesday, March 16, 2020, Ricki Sabia joined other members of the Big Table coalition for a meeting with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The Big Table coalition represents both general and special education stakeholders. The focus of the meeting was the Department’s plans for supporting the reopening of schools, including various technical assistance tools and a National Safe School Reopening Summit, which was held on March 24. The first and second technical assistance handbooks for school reopening have been released, as well as a clearinghouse of best practices.

NDSC Comments on Using NAEP Survey to Gather Data on Pandemic Learning

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) requested comments on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2021 School Survey as a tool to collect data on learning during the pandemic. In addition to making comments on the survey content, NDSC expressed concern regarding the confusion that district and school leaders may have about whether students who take state alternate assessment must be included in this survey. Since the NAEP has no alternate assessment, students who take their state alternate assessment do not participate in the NAEP assessment. However, this must not be a barrier to them being included in this very important survey. We urged the ED to make this point clear in its communication to district and school leaders.

Read our comments at https://www.ndsccenter.org/wp-content/uploads/NDSC-comments-NAEP-School-Survey-2021.pdf


SOTA Conference 2021

State of the Art Conference on Inclusive Postsecondary Education

Save the date for the State of the Art Conference on Inclusive Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilty to take place virtually on November 8 and 9, 2021. This year the conference theme is Inclusive Higher Education: Disability, Equity, and Social Justice. The conference will be an excellent opportunity for self-advocates, parents, colleges and universities, researchers, advocates, and other experts to gather virtually to learn from one another, share effective practices and policies, network, and share strategies. The Student Leadership Conference is a parallel conference planned by and bringing together high school and college students.

Speaker proposals for SOTA are now being accepted!

Submit your proposal today at  https://www.sotaconference.com/submit-a-proposal.html.

Ruby’s Rainbow is Now accepting scholarship applications!

This year Ruby’s Rainbow has raised $442,000 for postsecondary scholarships for students with Down syndrome.  Applicants must have the desire and intent to enroll or continue enrollment in a postsecondary class or program that will enhance their lives through employment, independent living or life skills, or interests in any other areas.

The deadline to apply for a Ruby’s Rainbow scholarship is April 18, so don’t wait – Apply today!

APPLY TODAY at https://rubysrainbow.org/apply-now-3/