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What's Happening in Washington

Congress Returns to Washington Post-Election for Lame Duck Session

The new 116th Congress that was decided by the November election does not start until January of 2019. The current 115th Congress, which includes Members of Congress who lost re-election or who are retiring, has returned to Washington, D.C. to complete its business for the year. The current Congress must act on federal funding as the current funding mechanism end on December 7th. In addition, Congress could consider extending current program authorizations, including legislation important to Easterseals and the individuals and families we serve. As Congress returns, urge Congress to extend the Medicaid Money Follows the Person Program (H.R. 5306/S. 2227), expand eligible for ABLE savings accounts (H.R. 1874/S. 817), and finalize fiscal year 2019 funding.

Easterseals Federal Program Investments Signed into Law

On September 28th, President Trump signed into law a fiscal year 2019 funding bill that included significant investments for Easterseals-operated federal programs, including the Senior Community Service Employment Program ($400 million), Early Intervention Grants for Infants and Families ($470 million), Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities ($391 million), Head Start and Early Head Start ($10.063 billion), Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program ($50 million), and the Vocational Rehabilitation State Grant Program ($3.521 billion).

Easterseals Office of Public Affairs has updated its federal program funding chart to reflect these new investments (PDF). In addition, H.R. 6157 included a short-term funding extension through December 7th of federal departments and programs not completed by the start of the fiscal year. The legislation was overwhelmingly approved in the U.S. Senate on September 18th and the U.S. House of Representatives on September 26th.

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.

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.

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, October 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.

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.

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