Public Policy Priorities
Easterseals Office of Public Affairs (OPA) exists to assure that the rights and resources that people with disabilities and Easterseals rely on are protected and expanded. To achieve that goal, OPA will focus its efforts in the new 115th Congress to protect, renew and expand access to effective services and supports for individuals with disabilities, older adults, and veterans to help them reach their potential and thrive in their communities.
Easterseals continues to be dedicated to the effective implementation, funding and enforcement of our nation’s civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
RENEW CRITICAL FEDERAL PROGRAMS AND SUPPORTS
During the 115th Congress, Easterseals will work to renew and update key laws that help individuals with disabilities, older adults, and veterans to access timely and effective community-based services in the areas of health care, education, transportation, and employment. Easterseals will work to improve the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act so every child with a disability can be successful in school; Keeping All Students Safe Act so that schools reduce the use of restraint and seclusion practices in our nation’s schools; the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to ensure that health services are available to low-income children with working parents; the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program so every child gets a great start in life; and the Veterans Employment and Homeless programs that help veterans secure stable housing and employment through holistic, veteran-centered community services.
In addition, Easterseals will advocate for new policies or legislation that addresses the most pressing needs of our communities and the people we serve including ratifying the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); increasing transportation mobility, especially in air travel; increasing care coordination and early access to community-based supports for veterans; and fully implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act.
EXPAND ACCESS TO COMMUNITY-BASED SERVICES
Easterseals recognizes that significant gaps in services and supports continue to exist for people with disabilities, older adults, and veterans. Cuts to federal discretionary funding and stalled legislative efforts have resulted in the erosion of critical services and supports for these underserved populations. For example, more than one million children under the age of five who have disabilities or developmental delays go undiagnosed and enter school annually without the skills to be successful. In addition, many federal and state programs have long waiting lists and states are prioritizing services because they are unable to serve all those in need. These funding cuts and limitations are resulting in more dependence and isolation.
During the 115th Congress, Easterseals will work to expand access to services and supports for people with disabilities, older adults, and veterans by advancing federal budget and appropriations policies that protect and expand federal funding for federal services programs, including Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants, Early Intervention Grants for Infants and Families, the Senior Community Service Employment Program, Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program, and the National Veterans Caregiver Training Program so that the individuals we serve can reach for and realize their full potential.
In addition, Easterseals will continue to influence the implementation of health insurance coverage available under the Affordable Care Act so that children and adults with disabilities receive the health services they need; strengthen Social Security, especially the Supplemental Security Income and the Social Security Disability Insurance programs; and protect the integrity and structures of Medicaid and Medicare.
Easterseals, as the indispensable resource for people with disabilities, has a bold vision for the future—a vision where we all have the opportunity to thrive and fully participate in our communities nationwide. Turning this vision into a reality demands that we work together as an interconnected community. We look forward to partnering with the 115th Congress to address the critical needs for people of all abilities.