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What's Happening in Washington

Congressional Committees Recommend Strong Investments for Federal Programs Operated by Easterseals 

The Appropriations Committees in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have both approved their funding recommendations for federal education, employment, and health care programs operated by Easterseals. On Wednesday, July 11th, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bill on a vote of 30-22. Previously, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill that funds programs and activities at the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Both bills include significant investments for programs operated by Easterseals affiliates, including the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HRVP), Early Intervention Grants for Infants and Families (IDEA Part C), and Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities (IDEA Part B). These investments were a result of a year-long advocacy effort by Easterseals that included targeted action alerts and congressional outreach around Easterseals funding priorities. Thank you to the thousands of Easterseals advocates who took action by contacting their Members of Congress regarding funding for these important programs!

Help Ensure Families Can Save for Their Children with Disabilities

A new effort is underway in Congress to expand and strengthen ABLE accounts, the savings tool Congress created in 2014 to help families save for the future needs of their children with disabilities.

At the time, Congress limited this important savings tool to only individuals who acquired their disability before turning age 26. Bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate (S. 817) and U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 1874) would increase the age restriction to ensure that more individuals with disabilities are eligible to set money aside for housing, employment training, personal support services, or other services to help improve their health and independence.

The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would also strengthen the sustainability of the current ABLE account program, according to the National Association of State Treasurers.

Update: EVV Delay Bill Passes Congress; States Provided More Time to Implement New System

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services first instructed states to implement a new electronic system beginning in 2019 to verify the delivery of Medicaid home health and personal care services that require an in-home visit. There are numerous implementation challenges related to this new federal requirement, including concerns for the privacy of individuals. The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have now approved legislation to delay the electronic visit verification system requirement to ensure proper implementation and to avoid service disruption. The measure now goes to the President for his signature. 

Help Promote Community Living and Services for Individuals with Disabilities

The Money Follows the Person (MFP) program is a Medicaid program that has helped more than 75,000 people with disabilities and seniors move from nursing homes and other institutions to the community.

The MFP program, which was first authorized by President George W. Bush in 2005, has expired.

Bipartisan legislation known as the EMPOWER Care Act has been introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 2227) to extend this vital program. A companion bill, H.R. 5306 - To reauthorize the Money Follows the Person Demonstration Program, was introduced soon in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rescission Package Fails in Senate Vote

While the U.S. House voted in support of the measure, a procedural vote on the Administration's rescission package failed on a 48-50 vote in the U.S. Senate.

On May 8, 2018, President Trump had submitted a $15.4 billion package of rescission cuts for Congress to consider as part of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The Trump Administration noted that the programs proposed to be cut are “no longer needed” for the purpose for which they were appropriated by Congress and that the funds have been left unspent by federal agencies, in some cases for many years.

Easterseals Statement on the Rescission Package: “Access to health care and treatment is critical to all Americans, particularly children and adults living with disabilities. The Children’s Health Insurance Program has been instrumental in providing children with disabilities and other special health care needs with access to early intervention services and other care, such as immunizations and regular check-ups. Easterseals was pleased that Congress approved and the President signed into law a long-term CHIP extension earlier this year. Easterseals questions the impact proposed CHIP funding cuts will have on the program and the ability of children to access essential care. Funding dedicated to improving children’s health should be reinvested in the program rather than be cut, as proposed in the Administration’s recent rescission package.”

Fiscal Year 2018 Funding Approved

Congress gave final approval to a $1.3 trillion funding bill that sets funding levels for federal departments and programs through September 30, 2018. Easterseals was active throughout the year, including nearly 1,400 messages into Congress just prior to the U.S. House (256-167) and U.S. Senate (65-32) votes. The measure was then signed by the President.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 included strong investments for federal programs important to Easterseals and the individuals and families we serve across the country, including:

  •     Increased funding for Early Intervention Grants (IDEA Part C), Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities (IDEA Part B), and IDEA Special Education Grants;
  •     Increased funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program and Lifespan Respite Care Program; and
  •     Strong investments in job training and employment programs, including increases for the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program and the Vocational Rehabilitation Program and level funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program.

The legislation also invests in national programs that Easterseals supports, including funding increases for the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, Social Services Block Grant and Childcare and Development Block Grant. Please view our updated Federal Program Funding Chart for more details on key programs and services. 

ADA Education and Reform Act passes House; may be introduced in Senate

On Thursday, February 15th, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 225-to-192 to pass the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620), a bill that would significantly weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its protections for individuals with disabilities. Thousands of Easterseals and disability advocates sent messages to their Representatives telling them to vote NO on the bill. (See how your Representative voted on H.R. 620.) The bill may now be introduce in the U.S. Senate.

As an original supporter of the ADA, Easterseals believes our country is strongest when all Americans, including individuals with disabilities, can fully participate in and contribute to their communities. The House vote on H.R. 620 was disappointing. Easterseals will continue to work to stop efforts to curb access to public places and essential services or otherwise weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Read and share these stories from Medicaid enrollees 

One of every seven Medicaid enrollees is a person with a disability, and now Congress is considering health care proposals that restrict access to critical Medicaid services.

Read more than 100 stories we've collected from parents of children with disabilities and from adults and seniors with disabilities in the Easterseals family who depend on Medicaid for their health, independence and well-being. Join more than 2,000 people who have already voiced their concern by signing our petition. 


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.

Funding History of Federal Disability Programs, March 2018 (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. Additionally, we have also created a FY 2019 funding chart for Federal Agencies from numbers in the President's 2019 Budget Proposal.

Easterseals Principles on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reform (PDF*)

Easterseals supports a rigorous debate on policies and strategies to grow the economy, improve our nation’s fiscal health, and strengthen and protect social programs for our country’s most vulnerable populations. Proposals related to the federal budget, tax reform, deficit reduction, and strategic investments may have a direct impact on the lives of children and adults with disabilities. Easterseals policy decisions on fiscal policy and tax reform will be based on Easterseals Principles on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reform as approved by the Easterseals Board of Directors on October 20, 2017.

Public Policy Priorities for the 115th Congress (2017-2018)

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.

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.

Easter Seals Alabama's Legislative Efforts

Easter Seals Alabama actively supports people with disabilities and their families by appealing to Local and State Officials, Congress and federal agencies to create and support programs that help people with disabilities gain greater independence.

Day on the Hill

Legislatures IN the Know (LINK) was initiated in May of 2007 with the first Day on the Hill. Day on the Hill is an effort to build awareness of Easter Seals in the state legislature as well as an opportunity to develop a strategic state government relations plan. Long term, LINK will provide heightened awareness and increased understanding of the issues surrounding disabilities.

Easter Seals Alabama visited legislators on the Hill February 28, 2008, in a continued effort to educate them about services we provide. Presentations of artwork completed by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder were made to Governor Bob Riley, Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. and Representative Cam Ward. Administrators and staffers went door-to-door dropping off literature and speaking with senators, representatives and staffers.

The 2009 Day on the Hill is set for February 26, 2009.

For additional photos from Day on the Hill, download the 2008 Day on the Hill PDF.

Alabama Autism Task Force

Representative Cam Ward and Emily, mother of an autistic childOn March 20, 2007, State Representative Cam Ward and Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. announced the formation of the Alabama Autism Task Force. House Joint Resolution 23 was passed by the legislature on March 8 and signed into law by Governor Riley shortly afterwards. The task force is made up of state officials, educators, doctors, and members of the academic community to recommend ways to improve the treatment of autism in Alabama.

Easter Seals Alabama is an active member of Alabama's Autism Interagency Council which governs the Alabama Autism Task Force.

For more information about the Alabama Autism Task Force, visit www.camward.com/AutismTaskForce.htm.

The 150 Visits Initiative

U.S. Representative Joe Bonner visiting Goodwill Easter Seals In 2006, Easter Seals affiliates were challenged to create and steward relationships with their members of Congress. The goal was to have 100 members of Congress visit affiliate service sites to see first hand the critical role that Easter Seals has in assisting adults and children with disabilities live, learn, work and play in their communities. The visits connect the decisions Representatives and Senators make to the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families.

Last year, the initiative mobilized Easter Seals Alabama's staff to reach out to federal legislators and create an emotional connection with them to Easter Seals' mission and services for individuals and families with autism and other disabilities and special needs. Each of the visits created an opportunity to emphasize the value and cost benefit to society of funding essential services that promote the health, productivity and independence of people with disabilities and special needs.

By October 2007, Easter Seals affiliates across the country had successfully reached and surpassed that goal. This year, a new resolution has been set to continue the program's successes by setting a goal of 150 additional visits.

You Can Help!

Join Easter Seals today in educating and informing public officials about issues that affect individuals with disabilities. View Easter Seals Action Alerts and contact your legislators now!

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