AUCD Legislative News In Brief

February 7, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
 
  February 7, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 6
  
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FY 2011 Budget and Appropriations
Even though the current fiscal year is nearly half over, House Republicans are trying to make huge cuts to programs for the remaining seven months.  Last week, the House Budget Committee, Chaired by Paul Ryan (R-WI), announced $32 billion in cuts to non-security discretionary programs for FY 2011.  Under
Ryan's plan, non-security discretionary spending would be capped at $420 billion, $44 billion (9.3 percent) below the FY 2010 level.  The allocation for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education is $157 billion, or $7 billion below the current level.  Details about where specific cuts would be made are not yet available, but could be released as soon as Monday, the same day the President is expected to send his budget request to Congress for FY 2012.  Meanwhile, the Senate is waiting for the House to act before it puts forward a plan for FY 2011; its plan is expected to be more moderate in its approach to reducing the deficit.  With the House and Senate coming up with different plans, no one is certain how they will come to agreement on final numbers.  In fact, the disagreement could result in a series of short-term continuing resolutions (CR) or a seven-month CR at current or reduced levels.  AUCD is watching this process closely and working with multiple coalitions to develop a unified strategy. 

Health Care Reform
The Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured held a public briefing today on opportunities for long-term services and supports in the Affordable Care Act and released new materials examining the latest data findings regarding Medicaid's long-term services and supports for seniors and people with disabilities.  They include updates on the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Service (HCBS) Programs and the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program.  The reports indicate that while state HCBS expenditures continue to grow, so do long waiting lists.  Lack of affordable and accessible housing, an inadequate supply of direct support professionals and state budget crises continue to impede implementation of MFP and similar programs. 

The briefing also featured remarks by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, a voluntary consumer-funded long-term care insurance program created by the law.  In her remarks, the Secretary responded to concerns about the solvency of the CLASS program.  In recent months, several groups examining ways to reduce the deficit, including the President's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, raised concerns about the program's long-term solvency and recommended alterations or repeal.  The Secretary focused on provisions in the law requiring HHS to ensure program solvency and provide flexibility within the program to do so.  She discussed the importance of increasing awareness for the program and strategies the Department is examining to resolve solvency concerns.  The resources discussed above, as well as the podcast and video of the briefing can be found here.

Education
AUCD signed on to a letter to President Obama regarding an amendment in the continuing resolution passed by Congress in December that undermined the federal definition of "highly qualified teacher" in the No Child Left Behind Act (Elementary and Secondary Education Act).  The amendment, which was inserted into the law without notice to public stakeholders and without public debate, allows states to label teachers as "highly qualified" when they are still in training in alternative route programs.  In many cases, even teachers who are just beginning their training can be labeled as highly qualified.  The provision codifies a regulation promulgated under the Bush Administration and seeks to reverse a recent federal appeals court ruling holding that the regulation violated NCLB's requirement that only fully prepared teachers be deemed "highly qualified."  Disability advocates are concerned that this provision will have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable populations, including students with disabilities, who are more frequently placed with unprepared teachers.  They sent an identical letter to Congressional leaders and are meeting with members of Congress in hopes of getting the provision repealed.

Lifespan Respite
Staff from Rep. Jim Langevin's (D-RI) office met with members of the
Lifespan Respite Taskforce Friday to discuss the pending reauthorization of the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006.  Despite limited funding, states already participating have rallied their networks to produce strong coalitions of aging and disability agencies.  The Administration on Aging is currently accepting input online or in hard copy by mail no later than March 31, 2011.  The need for this program continues to be evidenced by the many comments and personal stories that followed a New York Times blog post by Karen Stabiner titled Wanted: A National Respite System.  Advocates encourage comments to this blog to continue national attention to this matter.  In addition, AUCD members are encouraged to participate in a series of free State Lifespan Respite Summits held in Atlanta, GA (February 21), Columbus, OH (March 4), Helena, MT (March 9) and Richmond, VA (March 17) for the purpose of coalition-building and planning of State Lifespan Respite Programs.  More information about the Lifespan Respite Care Act can be found on AUCD's Family Caregiver Support page.

Children's Health
In honor of the two-year anniversary of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services released the 2010 CHIPRA Anniversary Report, "Connecting Kids to Coverage: Continuing the Progress."  The report highlights state, federal and community efforts to enroll all eligible children in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Programs.  HHS also announced $40 million in new grants to states, community-based organizations, school systems and others to support their outreach and enrollment activities.  The grants will help states further modernize and streamline their administrative systems and create and implement school-based outreach strategies for identifying eligible children who have been hard to reach. 

The Disability Policy Seminar starts one week from today!  You can still sign up to attend by visiting www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org.  The Seminar takes place February 14-16.  The final day of the Seminar is set aside for you to make visits to your legislators on Capitol Hill and let them know what's important to you.  There are more than 100 new Members of Congress and they need to know who you are and what you stand for!  This can be the single most impactful thing you do while you're here, so we've put some information and resources for you online to help you get organized for these visits.  To get the most out of your appointments, you should coordinate with other attendees in your area and visit your legislators together.  You can view the names of others from your area who are attending the Seminar here.  But before you do anything, you need to register for the seminar.  We hope to see you there!

For more information, email kmusheno@aucd.org.

 

For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=164

 

 

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