AUCD Legislative News In Brief

August 2, 2010

FY 2011 Appropriations
The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its annual appropriations bill on Tuesday.  The full Committee passed the bill two days later, on Thursday.  AUCD network programs fared well compared to other programs in this tight budget year. University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) received a $1 million increase in the Senate bill.  The House bill provides a $2 million increase and the President had provided level-funding.  The House bill provides a $2.4 million increase for the DD Councils; Protection and Advocacy programs receive $1 million; all other DD programs are level funded.  The Senate bill provides a $1 million increase for both DD Councils and Protection and Advocacy programs.

The Senate Committee provides $55 million for the "autism and other developmental disorders initiative," the same as the President's budget and the same as the authorized amount under the Combating Autism Act for FY 2011. This represents an almost $7 million increase over the FY 2010 level. Committee report language is included to ensure that "an increase of no less than $2 million is provided to continue and expand the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program." In addition, $2 million is specified "to continue and expand research on evidence-based practices for interventions for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, for development of guidelines for those interventions, and for information dissemination."

The Senate Committee bill includes $1.36 billion in FY 2011for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which provides core funding for the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (IDDRC). The FY 2010 is $1.33 billion.  The Committee also provides specific report language in support of IDDRC funding: 

"The Committee continues to recognize the outstanding contributions of the IDDRCs toward understanding the causes for a wide range of developmental disabilities including autism, Fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome and other genetic and environmentally induced disorders. The Committee is particularly pleased with how the IDDRCs have collaborated with each other to leverage resources and scientific capital on such efforts as developing a pilot national registry of patient populations and training and supporting young scientists. These centers received administrative supplements through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that were used to purchase equipment and develop enhanced scientific core services. However, the Committee urges the NICHD to provide additional resources to the IDDRC network to help bring about progress in expanding registries to include larger samples across different disorders, support and mentor new investigators, and develop opportunities for translational research efforts."

More details about other program funding will be shared as they become available.  The next step is for the full House committee to consider its bill and the full Senate to approve its bill.  Unfortunately, no date has been set for further action in either the House or the Senate.  There continue to be rumors that final action will not occur until after the mid-term elections.  This means that programs under the Departments of L-HHS-ED will operate under a continuing resolution that will still have to be passed by both chambers.

Medicaid & Education Funding
The Senate plans to vote this evening on a $26 billion domestic spending bill to extend enhanced federal Medicaid funding for states and provide $10 billion in education funds to avert layoffs of an estimated 138,000 school employees this fall.  The bill provides $16.1 billion to extend the enhanced federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for six months, phasing out those funds over time.  States would receive a 3.2 percent increase in the second quarter of FY 2011 and a 1.2 percent increase in the third quarter.  The current enhanced FMAP funds expire on December 31. Without an extension, many states will be forced to make drastic cuts to their Medicaid programs.  Although both items are fully offset by spending cuts in other areas, gathering the 60 necessary votes for today's procedural vote could still prove challenging.  To contact your Senators about this issue, please visit AUCD's Action Center.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), unanimously passed the
Training and Research for Autism Improvement Nationwide Act (H.R.5756), just one week after the Health Subcommittee approved the bill. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Reps. Doyle (D-PA) and Smith (R-NJ) on July 15. This measure was included and passed by the full House of Representatives last year as part of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, but did not make it into the final health reform law. The TRAIN Act creates training initiatives to expand interdisciplinary training and continuing education on autism spectrum disorders across the lifespan.  The next step is for the bill to be approved by the full House of Representatives.  AUCD staff is also working to find a sponsor and to develop a strategy to pass the bill in the Senate. An action alert with more details and steps for network members to take was sent by email last week and posted on AUCD's Action Center.

Last week, President Obama issued an Executive Order to increase Federal employment of individuals with disabilities.  The order, issued on the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, calls for the federal government to be a model employer of individuals with disabilities, and sets forth a strategy to improve efforts to employ workers with disabilities through increased recruitment, hiring, and retention. The Director of the Office of Personnel Management, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, will implement a system for reporting regularly to the president, the heads of agencies, and the public on federal agencies' progress in implementing hiring plans and the objectives of the order. 

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA) hosted a press conference in Washington, DC Tuesday to announce the introduction of the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act (HR 5902). The legislation will help create a more stable, valued direct care workforce and increase the quality of care for millions of Americans. Specifically, the bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to extend wage and overtime protections to home care workers, improve data collection and workforce monitoring, and provide grants to states to improve direct care workforce recruitment and retention.  To learn more about the Direct Care Empowerment Act, visit the Direct Care Alliance website.

Health Reform
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Tuesday the availability of $2.25 billion to extend the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration to states that do not already participate, in accordance with provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  On August 11, CMS will facilitate a national call for all interested Money Follows the Person (MFP) state applicants.  Under the MFP demonstration, states will receive an enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for a one-year period for each individual they transition from an institution to a qualified home and community-based program. States receiving a MFP grant award will also focus on re-balancing their long-term care systems needs by increasing the use of home and community-based services and decreasing the use of institutional care. Beginning in September, CMS will offer a series of technical assistance calls and training webinars to provide instruction to states on grant application development.

HHS issued a request for comment last week asking states, consumer advocates, employers, insurers, and other interested stakeholders to provide input as HHS develops the rules and standards to establish state-level Exchanges. Sections 1311(b) and 1321 (b) of the Affordable Care Act provide that each State may elect to establish an Exchange that would facilitate the purchase of qualified health plans, provide for the establishment of a Small Business Health Options Program designed to assist qualified employers in facilitating the enrollment of their employees in qualified health plans offered in the Small Business Health Options Program Exchange, and meet other requirements specified in the Act. Comments are due October 4.

The National Center on Caregiving at Family Caregiver Alliance recently released a paper entitled, "Health Care Reform and Family Caregivers".  This paper provides an overview of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act that will have the most direct impact on family caregivers.  These include provisions related to long-term care, including the CLASS Act, care quality and coordination, health insurance coverage, and health care workforce development.

Please visit AUCD's Health Reform Hub for more information and resources on the Affordable Care Act.

Asset Development
The Assets for Independence University 2010 National Grantee Conference was held last week in Washington, DC.  During the Conference, a one-day forum on asset building strategies for people with disabilities took place with the goal of educating the disability community about asset building, further educating the Assets for Independence (AFI) grantees on disability issues, connecting disability experts/groups to AFI and partners within the disability community, and increasing the use of asset building strategies in the community.   AFI enables community-based nonprofits and government agencies to implement and demonstrate assets-based approaches for giving low-income families a hand up out of poverty. AFI was authorized under the Assets for Independence Act in title IV of the Community Opportunities, Accountability, and Training and Educational Services Human Services Reauthorization Act of 1998, P.L. 105-285.

Social Security
Over 60 organizations, including the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, met last week to launch the Strengthen Social Security Campaign. The mission of the campaign is to mount a force of various organizations to advocate for, and inform and mobilize communities about, the interests of Americans with respect to social security.  The Social Security program, nearly 75 years old, has helped individuals with disabilities and their families provide for their basic needs. The coalition strongly opposes any increase in retirement age and any decrease in benefits. The group maintains that Social Security has not contributed to the federal deficit, and in fact is currently at a $2.6 trillion surplus. A third of Social Security beneficiaries are not retired and many of these are also one of the 54 million Americans with disabilities. The council reminded the public of the heart-felt counsel from Franklin D. Roosevelt, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

As part of celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Obama and others spoke at the White House last week to commemorate this important piece of civil rights legislation.  Invited guests included Cabinet officials, Members of Congress, grassroots leaders, and Americans living with disabilities.  In addition, the event included performances by Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, Patti LaBelle and Marlee Matlin, as well as remarks by Marca Bristo, President of Access Living, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes.