Disability Policy News In Brief

September 21, 2015

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September 21, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 39
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Congressional Schedule

The Senate is in session; the House is out until Thursday.  However, Congress will end legislative action this week after Tuesday with time off for Yom Kippur on Wednesday and a suspension of legislative action for the Pope's speech and visit.  The shortened work week is complicating efforts to pass a continuing resolution (CR) and avoid a government shutdown.

Budget and Appropriations

With so few legislative days left before the new fiscal year -- and some Members of Congress still threatening to filibuster passage of a CR if the government does not cut all federal spending for health services provided by Planned Parenthood -- a government shutdown appears more and more likely.  Meanwhile, the President and Minority Leaders Reid (D-NV) and Pelosi (D-CA) are pushing for a short-term CR at flat funding as long as there are no policy riders.  Democrats also insist that they will only vote for a CR with an agreement to negotiate a long term budget with higher spending caps.  They also insist that there be parity with the amount raised for defense spending caps. 

AUCD is advocating against a long-term CR without raising the discretionary caps because it would lock in the low sequestration levels provided by the 2011 Budget Control Act.  The non-defense discretionary cap for FY 2016 is only $1.1 billion.  While this figure is 0.2 percent higher than the FY 2015 enacted level, it is $9 billion lower than the 2015 level when accounting for inflation.  In fact, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the 2016 cap would result in spending on non-defense programs equaling the lowest level in the last five decades when measured relative to the size of the economy.  AUCD participated in a rally and Hill drop urging Members of Congress to raise the discretionary caps to avoid sequestration as they did in the 2013 bipartisan budget agreement by Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan.


AUCD signed onto a group letter to conferees in support of ensuring that the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program will be part of a final bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The program is included in the Senate bill (S. 1177) but not the House bill (H.R.5).  The program would create a tiered system for awarding grants that have clear evidence of effectiveness or a design that shows promise of effectiveness based on previous research findings. "The EIR program builds on proven strategies to support efforts by school districts, nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, and others to develop, validate, and scale up effective solutions to the challenges facing America's schools."   Read the full letter here and see Sec. 5005 of the Every Child Achieves Act.

Precision Medicine Initiative

In January, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) - a new effort to accelerate our understanding of individual differences in people's genes, environment and lifestyle, and their effect on disease onset, progression, prevention and treatment.  A major component of the PMI is the PMI Cohort Program (PMI-CP) - a new research cohort of a million or more volunteer participants. On Thursday, the Advisory Committee to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director released its recommendations for how that cohort should be shaped and implemented.  For more information, see the White House website: www.whitehouse.gov/precision-medicine. Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director, and Dr. Kathy Hudson, NIH Deputy Director for Science, Outreach, and Policy, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will hold a discussion via webcast about the recommendations on September 22 from 1:30 -2:30 p.m. ET (follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #PMINetwork). 

Direct Support

The Senate, led by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME), unanimously approved a resolution designating the week beginning September 13 as "National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week." Senate Resolution 245 recognizes Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) for their commitment to supporting individuals and promoting community-inclusion for individuals of all ages. The resolution was also co-sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Al Franken (D-MN), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on TANF reauthorization and released a Majority discussion draft along with a number of separate bills introduced by Majority Committee members:

  • H.R. 2952, the Improving Employment Outcomes of TANF Recipients Act,
  • H.R. 2967, the Using Evidence to Move Welfare Recipients into Work Act
  • H.R. 2968, the Coordinating Assistance for TANF Recipients Act
  • H.R. 2969, the TANF Marriage Penalty Elimination Act
  • H.R. 2966, the Reducing Poverty through Employment Act
  • H.R. 2959, the TANF Accountability and Work Activity Improvement Act
  • H.R. 2990, the Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act
  • H.R. 2991, the Preparing More Welfare Recipients for Work Act (with six cosponsors)

TANF provides basic cash assistance to families who live well below the federal poverty level (FPL). TANF has not received a long-term reauthorization since 2005 and was scheduled for reauthorization in 2010. Congress, however, did not work on legislation to reauthorize the program and instead extended the TANF block grant multiple times. The most recent extension expires September 30, 2015 with the discussion draft indicating an extension through 2020. AUCD will continue to monitor the progress of each bill and the reauthorization.

Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015                                                    

AUCD signed on to a letter to Sen. Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Doggett (D-TX) thanking them for their efforts to reform the federal foster care funding through the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act. This bill enhances federal funding available under parts B and E of Title IV of the Social Security Act for prevention and family services to help keep children safe and supported at home with their parents or other family members; gives states and tribes the flexibility to adapt evidence-based family services to the specific needs of each family; and ensures that states are held accountable for allocating services in ways that maximize safety, permanency, and well-being for children, while minimizing the prevalence of lengthy foster care placements. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance. 

Health Care

AUCD staff attended a congressional briefing on a bill, the Professional's Access to Health Workforce Integration Act  (HR 2709,) introduced by Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA). The bill authorizes grants for career support for skilled internationally educated health professionals. According to the Migration Policy Institute, over two million college-educated immigrants in the United States are unemployed or underemployed in low- or semi-skilled jobs that fail to draw on their education and expertise in the healthcare field. This is a viable untapped resource given that projections indicate a nationwide shortage of up to 250,000 public health workers needed by 2020.  The bill could also serve the country's increasing need for expanding multicultural/multilingual services and supports in the medical field. Authorized activities include training opportunities to reduce barriers and educate employers.  AUCD support the intent of this bill and will continue to monitor its progress.

Employment/Subminimum Wage

Over the August recess, Sen. Kelly Ayotte introduced a companion bill (S. 2001) to the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act originally introduced by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) as HR 188on January 7, 2015.  The bill directs the Secretary of Labor to discontinue issuing any new special wage certificates to profit or non-profits and prescribes requirements for a 3-year phase out of all certificates.  The House bill now has 44 bipartisan co-sponsors. The Senate bill is also bipartisan with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) co-sponsoring with Ayotte.  There are no other Senate cosponsors. The next step is for the Senate HELP and the House Education and Workforce committees to markup and pass the bills.  There is no date set for this markup.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

 For this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviewed Heather Sachs, the Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy at the National Down Syndrome Society, regarding the ABLE Act, which stands for Achieving Better Life Experience. In case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed Alison Barkoff (Director of Advocacy, Bazelon Center), addressing the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision and how it impacts community living.  Subscribe to Tuesdays with Liz so you do not miss out on any interviews. 



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For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms 


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