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What's Happening in Washington

Response to Zika Virus More Important Than Ever 

Congress was not able to agree on funding to deal with the consequences of the Zika virus before the August recess.

The virus will likely result in more babies being born with microcephaly and more adults contracting Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Public health agencies and organizations like Easterseals must be ready to assist these individuals immediately. Please help us get the necessary funding to confront the Zika threat.

Tell Congress: Fund Programs Serving People with Disabilities

Congress is making final decisions about funding federal programs. Tell your Members of Congress to increase funding for the vital programs that empower people with disabilities:

  • Vocational Rehabilitation State Grant Program (U.S. Department of Education)
  • Supported Employment State Grant Program (U.S. Department of Education)
  • Senior Community Service Employment Program (U.S. Department of Labor)
  • Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (U.S. Department of Labor)
  • Head Start (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
  • IDEA Parts B and C (U.S. Department of Education)
  • Maternal and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

It is important that the federal government be fiscally responsible. At the same time, we know that people with disabilities disproportionately rely on government services to live, learn, work and play in their communities. These services were created by government because the private market place would not meet the unique needs of people with disabilities. Federal services and supports for people with disabilities must remain in place and strong.

Opioid Drug Legislation signed into Law

Earlier in July, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 (CARA), a bill that would strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery efforts through providing medical professionals and law enforcement officials with more tools to address the problems of addiction. President Obama signed CARA into law on July 22, 2016.

The impact of addiction on individuals, families and communities has been growing over the last few years. Prescription drug abuse is now the number one cause of death in 17 states, even more than car accidents. And it isn’t just the addict that is affected. The families and children of addicts may be impacted in a myriad of ways both physically and emotionally.

This legislation will increase overall funding by 47 percent to encourage alternatives to incarceration for people with substance abuse problems and to expand access to naloxone, a treatment that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Another of the important provisions in the bill will allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to administer the treatment medication, buprenorphine, which under current law can only be provided by a physician.

The next step is for Congress to pass spending bills to fund the activities established in CARA. This work will take center stage when Congress returns after Labor Day. 

Older Americans Act Reauthorization

President Obama has signed legislation renewing the Older Americans Act on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Previously, the United States Senate unanimously passed the legislation on Thursday, April 7, 2016. The House had passed the bill on Monday, March 21, 2016.

The Older Americans Act is a critical piece of legislation that authorizes supportive services for older adults through Area Agencies on Aging, family caregiver supports, nutrition programs and the Senior Community Service Employment Programs (SCSEP). Easterseals has worked for many years to achieve this milestone and over 1,000 Easterseals supporters weighed in with Congress calling for passage of reauthorization.

The final bill includes many provisions championed by Easterseals, including:

  • Increased funding of just under 7% for almost all programs spread out over the next 10 years;
  • Expansion of the National Family Caregiver Support program to include older adults caring for their adult children with disabilities; and
  • A new program on transportation coordination.

Easterseals applauds the passage of this important legislation.

House Committee approves Easterseals-recommended funding for SCSEP

On Thursday, July 14, 2016, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) at the funding level recommended by Easterseals. The support of over 500 Easterseals advocates was instrumental in educating Representatives about the important employment services the program provides for unemployed older workers. Easterseals will continue to work in Congress to ensure this higher level of funding for SCSEP is included in the final funding bill for fiscal year 2017.

Advocacy: Our Voices Are Heard!

Thank you to thousands of Easterseals advocates for contacting their Members of Congress on important issues that ensure people with disabilities, children, veterans, and older Americans get the services they need. Sign up here to receive Easterseals advocacy alerts.

  • Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program: 29 Republicans and 38 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives signed onto the Easterseals-supported letter advocating for increased funding for the U.S. Department of Labor's Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP). This strong, bipartisan support would not have been possible had it not been for your advocacy and 550 other Easterseals advocates from across the country who contacted their Members of Congress about this vital program. Click here to view the final "Dear Colleague" letter.
  • Early Education: Over 500 Easterseals advocates responded by asking 276 Members of the House to sign-on to a "Dear Colleague" letter from Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Massachusetts) in support of increased funding for Early Intervention Grants for Infants and Families, Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities, and the Child Care Development Block Grant. Click here to view the final "Dear Colleague" letter with all signatories.
  • Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act: Nearly 1,000 Easterseals advocates contacted their Senators and Representatives in support of reauthorization of the OAA.

The Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act

Being a caregiver can be enormously rewarding -- but it can be physically and emotionally draining as well. That's why it's important for caregivers to seek occasional respite from their responsibilities. Whether it's for a few hours a week to run errands or a few weeks a year to take a much-needed vacation, respite care lets caregivers maintain their own health, bolster family stability, keep marriages intact, and avoid or delay more costly nursing home or foster care placements.

In 2006, Congress passed legislation to coordinate and enhance respite services for people of all ages and disabilities. Since 2009, funding has helped people in 33 states get access to and information about respite services.

It is time for Congress to renew this small but important program. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-Rhode Island) and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Mississippi) have introduced "The Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2015" (H.R. 3913).

Ensure Veterans with Disabilities Get the Support They Need at Home

Easterseals 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 Easterseals' ability to provide services to them, as well as to meet Easterseals' mission today and for years to come. The unmet needs of people with disabilities will continue to go unaddressed if Easterseals 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 Easterseals advocacy alerts.

Public Policy Priorities for the 114th Congress

People with disabilities and Easterseals 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, July 2016 (PDF*)

This chart, developed by Easterseals 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.

Legislative Landmarks

Easterseals 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.

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