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What's Happening in Washington

Easterseals Asks Tax Reform Conference Committee To Consider People with Disabilities During Negotiations

Last week, Congress voted to proceed to the U.S. House-U.S. Senate conference committee to negotiate the differences between the U.S. House-passed tax bill and the U.S. Senate-passed tax bill. The U.S. House named 14 Members to the Conference Committee (nine Republicans/five Democrats) while the U.S. Senate named 15 Members (eight Republicans/seven Democrats) to the Committee, which only needs a simple majority to advance the final tax bill to the House and Senate floors for final votes. The conference committee (PDF*) is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, December 13th.

In advance of Wednesday’s first meeting of the special tax reform committee, Easterseals sent a letter (PDF*) asking that individuals with disabilities and their ability to access essential care and supports be considered as the committee negotiates the final bill. In our letter to all conference committee members, Easterseals asked that they remove or modify current tax bill provisions that would negatively affect charitable giving, repeal a key Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision, and would end important deductions that improve the lives of individuals with disabilities and others with pre-existing conditions. We are especially troubled by the provisions that would:

  • End a tax incentive for businesses who hire individuals with disabilities, veterans, and other jobseekers with significant barriers to employment (House Bill Section 3404);
  • Repeal a key component of the Affordable Care Act, which has provided individuals with disabilities and others with pre-existing conditions with significant protections and access to essential health benefits (Senate Bill Section 11081);
  • Eliminate the medical expense deduction that many families use to help mitigate high out-of-pocket medical costs in a given year (House Bill Section 1308);
  • Cancel a tax credit that helps small businesses absorb the costs associated with removing physical barriers and other improvements to make their business more accessible for individuals with disabilities (House Bill Section 3407); and
  • Change the number of individuals likely to claim the charitable giving deduction, which could lead to a significant reduction in donations used to expand services for individuals with disabilities (included in both the House and Senate bills).

We still have time to stop these tax provisions that are harmful for people with disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities have a stake in this debate. The Easterseals, Inc. Board of Directors recently approved tax reform principles. Tax reform changes should improve — not worsen — the ability of individuals with disabilities to access Medicaid and other life-changing services and supports.

Congress Approves Two-Week Funding Measure to Keep Government Open

Congress has approved and the President has signed a temporary funding measure to keep the federal government open through midnight on December 22, 2017. The two-week continuing resolution provides Congress and the President more time to strike a deal on discretionary funding caps and other end-of-year priorities. The measure also included a special provision to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to redistribute Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding for states experiencing a CHIP funding shortfall. Congress has not extended CHIP since the program expired on October 1st.

Easterseals supports the call by several Republican and Democratic Members of Congress for a bipartisan budget deal that would raise the discretionary budget caps to provide Congress with more resources to fund programs and services important to Easterseals and individuals with disabilities.

Tell Congress to Extend the Children's Health Insurance Program!

While Congress passed a special provision to its budget resolution to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to redistribute Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding for states experiencing a CHIP funding shortfall, health coverage for millions of children enrolled in the Children's Health Insurance Program remains at-risk.

Congress must act quickly to renew this critical program that provides immunizations, check-ups, and other care for children with and without disabilities whose families do not qualify for Medicaid. 

UPDATE: Bipartisan Talks Underway Following Canceled Graham-Cassidy Legislation Vote

Bipartisan talks between Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Patty Murray (D-Washington), and others continue following the cancelled vote on the Graham-Cassidy proposal. The bipartisan talks are focused on stabilizing the Affordable Care Act insurance markets by providing increased flexibility for states seeking waivers and approving cost-sharing reduction payments. The talks resumed following the September 26th decision to cancel the vote on the Graham-Cassidy proposal that Easterseals opposed for its cuts to Medicaid services for children and adults with disabilities. Thank you again to the great response from Easterseals affiliates and our on-line advocacy network! Your voices were heard loud and clear as a number of Senators came out against the newest Graham-Cassidy proposal because of its deep cuts to Medicaid. 

Tell Congress: Don't Mess with the Americans with Disabilities Act!

The U.S. House may soon consider a bill (H.R. 620) that would significantly weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its protections for individuals with disabilities. H.R. 620 would make it harder for a person with a disability to access their rights under this 27 year old civil rights law.

The bipartisan Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibited the discrimination of individuals with disabilities all most aspects of American life. The ADA struck a careful balance between the civil rights of individuals with disabilities and the practical needs of businesses, requiring only those modifications that did not result in an undue burden to an existing business. The law took the prospective approach of requiring equal access to businesses that were opened after the ADA became law in 1990.

Twenty-seven years is enough time for a business to know its obligations under the ADA. Building codes and state licensing requirements have been shaped to help businesses know what to do. Unfortunately, H.R. 620 ignores the bipartisan compromise that has been working for the past 27 years. H.R. 620 creates new, unnecessary burdens for a person with a disability to meet before filing a complaint against a business who has yet to comply with the 1990 law.

The House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 620 on Thursday, September 7, 2017 and now awaits action in the U.S. House.

Don't let Congress mess with the ADA!

Tell Washington: Camp is for Everyone!

In April 2017, President Trump signed an executive order titled "Buy American and Hire American." Part of this executive order calls for a reduction or elimination of the J-I Camp Counselor program and the Summer Work Travel program.

Easterseals depends on international students to fill camp counselor positions each year, as there are not enough American students and workers available. For this summer, Easterseals Iowa posted 72 camp counselor positions. Five Americans applied and were hired, the remaining positions were filled with international staff.

Many of our campers require the specialized supports that are only available at an Easterseals camp. Accessible grounds and facilities, adapted equipment and trained staff allow participants to accomplish what they may never have thought was possible - like swimming, traversing a river or playing wheelchair tennis. Other programs provide less ambitious - but no less significant - activities that teach everyday living skills, such as planning an outing to a movie or museum.

Easterseals has urged President Trump and Members of Congress to maintain the J-1 Camp Counselor program and the use of the Summer Work Travel program.

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.

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.

Funding History of Federal Disability Programs, September 2017 (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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