Disability Policy News

July 2, 2021

Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
                 July 2, 2021   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 25
**Editors Note: this early edition of Disability Policy News provides details of the opportunity to impact disability systems. We share it today, to provide you background to share your voice with Members of Congress and their staff over the July 4th Holiday.**


Disability Policy News Special Edition: Infrastructure and Budget Reconciliation

Understanding what is under consideration in Congress; the possible impacts on the disability community; and why Members of Congress need to hear our voices now!


black and white image of capitol domeWhat is happening? 

Congress has been considering many ideas about how to help our country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans proposed have included:

  • The American Jobs Plan
  • The American Family Plan
  • The Republican Road Map
Many of these ideas have been discussed using the term infrastructure. 

  •  Infrastructure means the buildings, roads, bridges, power lines, and other things our country needs to work every day. It can also include systems that make our country work, like schools, healthcare, and other government services.
While the House and Senate both have Democratic Majorities, the Senate majority is 10 members short of the 60 needed to pass proposals by regular process with only Democratic support.

  •  Senate Filibuster: Senate rules require three-fifths of the total number of senators (60) to vote to close debate on any bill. This means that opposition from at least 41 senators can defeat the bill by preventing debate or a final vote.
President Biden and House and Senate Democrats and Republicans have been meeting and negotiating what ideas can be passed with bipartisan support.

  •  Bipartisan: When people of both political parties (Democratic and Republican) work together on a law.
Announcements were made the week of June 21st about a deal on a bipartisan framework for an infrastructure package.

We do not yet have legislative language for the bipartisan infrastructure act, but the framework included:

  • $109 billion to repair and rebuild roads and bridges
  • $49 billion for public transit
    • Disability advocates continue to push for the All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP) Act of 2021(S.1680, H.R.3317) to be a part of this investment. This bill would help make public transportation systems more accessible to passengers with disabilities by providing funding to upgrade existing public transportation and commuter rail stations to meet or exceed accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • $7.5 billion to build a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers along highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities. This would accomplish the President's goal of building 500,000 EV chargers.
  • $7.5 billion to electrify thousands of school and transit buses across the country
  • $55 billion to eliminate the nation's lead service lines and pipes and deliver clean drinking water to up to ten million American families and more than 400,000 schools and child care facilities that currently don't have it
  • $65 billion to connect every American to reliable high-speed internet
When discussing this deal, Democratic Congressional leaders also shared their plan to move other ideas forward through a budget reconciliation measure.

  •  Budget Reconciliation is a tool that makes legislation easier to pass in the Senate; a reconciliation bill only needs a simple majority (51) in the Senate, but must be tied to spending.
Some of the ideas for recovery will now be part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Parts of President Biden's American Jobs Plan and American Family Plan that are not included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework continue to move in a budget reconciliation process, a process that will require a majority in the house and a majority (but not 60 votes) in the Senate.


image description: outline of piece of paper with check marks, black and whiteWhat disability priorities are likely to be included?
A $400 billion investment in Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) proposed by President Biden in his American Jobs Plan is the largest priority of the disability community that was included in proposals. We now know that this priority will move forward as part of budget reconciliation. The Better Care Better Jobs Act (S.2210, H.R.4131) is the legislative language to pass this historic investment in HCBS and is expected to be included in the budget reconciliation.


image description: outline of a person's face with sound waves coming from their mouthWhere is my voice needed?

The most critical need is for education and advocacy around Home and Community Based Services. All Members of Congress need to be hearing continuously how important the $400 billion dollar investment is to their constituents.

  • Constituents are the people that a Member of Congress represents.

image description: three hands raised in the airWhat are the actions I can take?

It is fair to reach out to every member of Congress and share the importance of the Better Care Better Jobs Act (S.2210, H.R.4131).

  • It is true that this will move in a partisan manner (with only Democratic votes), but the issues related to HCBS and Medicaid will be important to all Members of Congress going forward and education on this issue is valuable.
  • If you have a Demeocratic or Independent Senator(s):
    • Check to see if they are one of the 40 cosponsors. The updated list can be found here.
      • If yes, thank them and share why it is so important to make sure the final package includes the $400 billion for HCBS.
      • If they are one of the 10 that have not yet cosponsored, reach out and share why HCBS is important and offer to answer any questions as they consider becoming a cosponsor.
      • Remember that in order for it to pass through budget reconciliation, ALL 50 Democratic Senators will have to support. This makes is extra important that Democratic Senators hear from you.
  • If you have a Republican Senator(s):
    • Reach out and share why HCBS is important and offer to answer any questions they have about its impact your state.
    • Ask them what policies they are supporting to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
      • Remember that while they are unlikely to support this bill they will be engaged in many disability issues this Congress.
  • If you have a Democratic Representative or Delegate:
    • Check to see if they are a cosponsor. The updated list can be found here.
      • If yes, thank them and share why it is so important to make sure that the final package includes the $400 billion.
      • If they have not yet cosponsored, reach out and share why HCBS is important and offer to answer any questions as they consider becoming a co-sponsor. 
      • The higher the number of cosponsors in the House, the greater the chance to keep ALL 50 Democrats in the Senate.
  • If you have a Republican Representative or Delegate:
    • Reach out and share why HCBS is important and offer to answer any questions they have about its impact in your state.
    • Ask them what policies they are supporting to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
      • Remember that while they are unlikely to support this bill, they will be engaged in many disability issues this congress.

image description: hand point to three buttons showing a phone, envelope, and at sign, black and whiteExtra ways to make an impact

  • Use social media to raise the importance of this legislation.
    • Use #BetterCareBetterJobs
  • Share a personal story.
Members of Congress and their staff from every state need to understand what HCBS means to people in their state. AUCD is sharing these stories; we are looking to have stories to share from every state. Please send your story about HCBS to [email protected] 

  • Short is best (3-5 sentences)
  • A picture helps
  • Stories can come from people with disabilities, family members, allies, and professionals working in these systems. 

image description: outline of calendar and small clock, black and whiteWhat is the timeline?

Congress will return to Washington from the 4th of July Recess on Monday, July 9th It is expected that the work on both bipartisan infrastructure and budget reconciliation bills will be intense with efforts to get them to final passage before the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30th. This gives the disability community 12 weeks to educate and advocate around our priorities.