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What's Happening in Washington

Budget Update: Congress Reaches Bipartisan Budget Deal

Congress has passed a wide-ranging budget agreement that also includes many important provisions affecting people with disabilities. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on November 2, 2015. Easter Seals worked to help advance this agreement while still expressing concerns with certain aspects of the measure.

The budget agreement does several things including:

  • Sets overall budget caps for fiscal year 2016 and 2017 that are slightly higher than those in place under "sequester" or the arbitrary spending limit cuts triggered by a 2011 bipartisan agreement. However, this does not mean that all federal funding decisions are completed. By December 11, Congress must still pass appropriations bills that authorize spending on a program-by-program basis for fiscal year 2016. If they are not able to do that the government will shut down until an agreement is reached.
  • Transfers some funding from the general Social Security trust fund to the trust fund for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  Without this transfer, SSDI recipients would have faced a significant cut in benefits for 2016 as the trust fund fell short. The transfer extends the life of the SSDI trust fund until 2022. While not the long-term fix that SSDI needed, this agreement assures that benefits can continue in the short-term while longer-term solutions are pursued.
  • Extends the federal government’s borrowing power to pay existing debt into 2017. Without this authority, the federal government would have had to default on some payments to creditors.

We will now work through the FY2016 appropriations process to assure that those federal programs that people with disabilities rely upon are prioritized.

Transportation Reauthorization Passes

The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have now both approved a multi-year highway and transit funding bill. The legislation now moves to committee to resolve differences between the two versions.

Thank you to the hundreds of advocates who wrote to their Members of Congress in support of funding transportation services for older Americans and people with disabilities.

Senate votes to reauthorize the Older Americans Act

The population of older adults needing Older Americans Act services is growing faster than at any time in the country’s history as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day. By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 or older. However, just when the need is highest, funding for these critical services is in jeopardy.

Now in its 50th year, the Older Americans Act (OAA) provides services to help millions of seniors every year with health, independence and dignity in their homes and communities. Congress must ensure that programs older Americans depend on to stay healthy and independent are there for the next 50 years.

UPDATE: On Thursday, July 16, 2015, the U.S. Senate passed reauthorization. Please ask your Representatives to update and fund the Older Americans Act.

Reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act passes the House and Senate 

On July 8, 2015, the House's version of Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5),  passed by an extremely close vote of 218-213 with only Republicans voting for the bill. Easter Seals opposed this bill as it left all decisions about school accountability for student performance up to the states, took away annual assessment of students, and removed the limit on the number of students with disabilities that can take the alterative assessment. Under current law only 1% of students can take this test.
The Senate version -- the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) -- passed on Thursday, July 16, 2015, by a bipartisan vote of 81-17. While ECAA kept annual testing and the cap on the number of students taking annual assessments, it does nothing to ensure the accountability of schools for student subgroup performance, which includes student with disabilities. Due to this lack of accountability, Easter Seals could not support this bill.
The House and Senate will now move to conference, where they will take both versions and compromise on a final bill. Easter Seals will continue to monitor the process and advocate for the needs of students with disabilities and accountability in the final legislation.

Ensure Veterans with Disabilities Get the Support They Need at Home

Easter Seals supports new legislation (H.R. 1843) that would help ensure the men and women who were injured while serving our nation in the U.S. military have full access to the benefits they have earned and the local supports and services they may need to successfully reintegrate into their communities.

Your voice needs to be heard in the U.S. House of Representative to help grow support of H.R. 1843 to help connect veterans with disabilities to local supportive services. You can also use this opportunity to thank co-sponsors of the bill.

Current Legislative Alerts: Take Action!

Each day, decisions are being made in Washington, D.C., that will affect people with disabilities and Easter Seals' ability to provide services to them, as well as to meet Easter Seals' mission today and for years to come. The unmet needs of people with disabilities will continue to go unaddressed if Easter Seals is not engaged in educating public policy makers about people with disabilities' disproportionate reliance on government for health, education, employment, transportation and other needed services. Sign up to receive Easter Seals advocacy alerts.

Legislative Landmarks

Easter Seals has been active in public policy advocacy since our founder, Edgar Allen, lobbied the Ohio Legislature to fund appropriate services for children with disabilities in the 1920s. We continue to actively support and promote federal legislation that helps people with disabilities achieve independence.

Public Policy Priorities for the 114th Congress

People with disabilities and Easter Seals have a significant stake in government programs. For many children and adults with disabilities, their ability to get an education, earn a living and live independently in the community is dictated by the availability of services and supports, many of which come only from the federal government.

Funding History of Federal Disability Programs, June 2015 (PDF*)

This chart, developed by Easter Seals Office of Public Affairs, tracks the funding history of federal disability programs. The chart divides the information by agency, listing underneath each agency specific programs that matter to children and adults with disabilities.

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