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What's Happening in Washington

Time is Running Out on the Disability Treaty!

The U.S. Senate returned from recess on Monday, September 8, and are currently scheduled to work only a few days before breaking again for elections. Please continue to contact your Senators in support of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). If the Senate does not debate and vote on the CRPD this session, it will probably never be ratified.

The following Senators, in particular, need to hear from their constituents: Jeff Flake (Arizona); John Boozman (Arkansas); Dan Coats (Indiana); Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss (Georgia); Thad Cochran (Mississippi); Roy Blunt (Missouri); Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer (Nebraska); Dan Heller (Nevada); Rob Portman (Ohio); and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina). If you live in one of these states, please include a personalized message on the importance of the CRPD in your advocacy message.

Help us secure all the votes to ratify this important treaty this year.

Congress Extends Homeless Veteran Programs; Awaits President’s Signature

During the week of September 15-19, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate approved legislation to extend key veterans’ health and homeless programs operated by Easter Seals affiliates that were set to expire by the end of the month. Congress approved and sent to the President H.R. 5404, the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2014, which reauthorizes the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) and Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) Program through September 30, 2015. Both programs are set to expire at the end of the fiscal year (September 30). The Easter Seals Office of Public Affairs advocated for this extension during the year. 

Autism Programs Reauthorized

On Friday, August 8, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Autism CARES Act into law.

The Autism CARES (Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support) Act of 2014 reauthorizes the research and screening programs that were originally authorized in the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (PL 109-416) and authorizes $1.3 billion for autism programs over Fiscal Years 2015 to 2019. The legislation has its new name in the hopes of better representing the goals of the bill and reducing stigma. This legislation also requires the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to study and report to Congress how young adults with autism spectrum disorder navigate the transition from school-based services to those services that are available to adults.

Easter Seals is one of the nation’s largest service providers for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  

President Signs Veterans Care Bill

On August 7, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act into law. Easter Seals Dixon Center and Office of Public Affairs staff attended the signing ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (PDF*) will improve access to and quality of care for veterans. The bill was in response to the wait-time and access-to-care delays that veterans have faced recently at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and clinics across the country. Among other things, the legislation provides $10 billion in new, emergency funding through a Veterans Choice Fund for the VA to coordinate and reimburse care and services provided by non-VA entities to eligible veterans. 

President Signs Easter Seals-Supported Job Training Bill

On Tuesday, July 22, 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), an Easter Seals-supported bill that updates the U.S. job training and employment system, including the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program and other employment services for people with disabilities. President Obama said the bipartisan legislation will help ensure every American has skills to fill open jobs and made special note about new initiatives included in the legislation “for Americans with disabilities who want to live and work independently.” 

Katy Beh Neas, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for Easter Seals, Inc., attended the invitation-only White House ceremony, which included key congressional leaders that Easter Seals worked with to help write key provisions of WIOA. “I was pleased to represent Easter Seals today at the White House to witness President Obama sign into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” said Neas. “Today is a historic day in helping people with disabilities access the services and supports they need to find jobs. Easter Seals affiliates, staff and supporters should feel proud of their role in making this important legislation a reality.”

The legislation was overwhelmingly approved in the United States House of Representatives (415-6) and the United States Senate (95-3). Easter Seals was instrumental throughout the legislative process in development and passage of WIOA – from writing key legislative provisions to preserve employment options and promote employment outcomes for people with disabilities to our Easter Seals affiliates and supporters engaging with their Members of Congress at critical junctures throughout the year to lend their support for the legislation."Final congressional action on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act comes at a time when individuals with disabilities face double digit unemployment (12.9% in June 2014) and when less than two in 10 individuals with disabilities are participating in the labor force," said Katy Beh Neas, Senior Vice President for Government Relations at Easter Seals, Inc. "The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the recent federal contractor hiring goals set earlier this year could represent major game-changers in helping to increase employment for people with disabilities. Easter Seals commends the United States House of Representatives for approving and advancing this critical legislation."

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.

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 113th 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, January 2014 (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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