The Arc Responds to Escalating Situation at US-Mexico Border “Families belong together and the act of tearing them apart is inhumane and cruel”

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the forced immigrant family separations that are occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border and news of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities being amongst those taken from their parents.

“With each passing minute, we reach a new low as the civil rights and values upon which our nation was founded continue to be betrayed. News of a young girl with Down syndrome being torn from her family is heart wrenching, yet what is garnering headlines is the callous response from those who support the actions of the Trump Administration. As we have said before – family separations are extremely traumatizing and damaging to children. Children with disabilities rely on their loved ones for care, security, and support, particularly for their unique needs. Unfamiliar border agents and other authorities who collect little information about the needs of a child with disabilities risk exacerbating disabling conditions and causing serious harm, in addition to the severe trauma of separation.

“Families belong together and the act of tearing them apart is inhumane and cruel. The Administration’s barbaric choices will undoubtedly traumatize children with and without disabilities. As this situation escalates, we call upon Congress to take action to ensure that these administrative practices are permanently prohibited. The Arc remains aligned with the immigrant community and the many organizations and individuals that have come out in opposition to this abhorrent practice,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The practice of forcibly separating children from their parents can cause irreparable harm in a child’s development, resulting in disability. As noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding these forced family separations, “In fact, highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress – known as toxic stress – can carry lifelong consequences for children.”

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of nearly 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

The Arc Condemns Family Separations at U.S.-Mexico Border; Calls on Congress to Act

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the forced immigrant family separations that are occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The Arc stands with the immigrant community and the many organizations and individuals that have come out in opposition to this abhorrent practice,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “The notion of uniformed, federal border protection agents forcibly separating parents from their children is outrageous. Family separations are extremely traumatizing and damaging to children, and none are more affected than children with disabilities, who rely on their loved ones for care, security, and support.”

The practice of forcibly separating children from their parents can cause irreparable harm in a child’s development, resulting in disability. As noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding these forced family separations, “In fact, highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress – known as toxic stress – can carry lifelong consequences for children.”

The Arc’s Berns further noted: “The Arc condemns the cruel and inhumane immigration practices which the Trump Administration has stated are being carried out in accordance with existing immigration policies and laws. However, this explanation rings hollow. Nothing in the law requires the children to be ripped away from their families. This is, quite simply, a choice that has been made by the Administration which is both punitive and contrary to basic human decency.

“How many children have already had the protection, security, and love of their parents stripped away, and how many more face the same fate? As a nation founded by immigrants, we and our elected representatives at the state and federal levels should be outraged by this practice. We call upon President Trump to immediately halt these cruel practices, and we call upon Congress to take action to ensure that such Administrative practices are permanently prohibited.”

The Arc Recognizes Steven Drizin, one of Brendan Dassey’s Attorneys, for Championing Disability Rights Throughout Career

Washington, D.C. – The Arc of the United States has recognized Steven Drizin, Clinical Professor of Law at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, with The Perske Award for championing the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in the criminal justice system.

Drizin was presented the award for a lifetime of work on justice reform for youth and people with disabilities and his representation of Brendan Dassey, a young man with learning and developmental disabilities, and a central figure in Netflix’s smash docuseries Making a Murderer. The award was presented to Drizin during an event celebrating the creation of The Arc’s Criminal Justice Advisory Panel, the latest addition to the organization’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability’s® (NCCJD®) ongoing work to protect the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities involved in the criminal justice system.

Drizin’s law career spans more than 30 years, during which he has become a national expert on false confessions, wrongful convictions, and juvenile justice reform. Drizin and his colleague, Laura Nirider, have been working on the Brendan Dassey case since Dassey was sentenced to life in prison after conviction for first-degree intentional homicide, rape, and mutilation of a corpse at the age of 16.  His conviction was overturned on grounds that his confession was involuntary but later reinstated after an en banc decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. This month, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to hear his case.

“Our justice system is flawed in many ways, but nothing is more cruel, inhumane, and tragic than the way people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be treated in the process. Steve Drizin has made it his mission to take on many cases in which justice hasn’t been served.  In Brendan Dassey’s case, the work he is doing will have a ripple effect for other people with intellectual and developmental disabilities caught up in a system that can stack the odds against them. For those of us who knew and worked with Bob Perske, giving Steve this award in Bob’s name is a natural fit, as Bob’s passion lives on in those who continue to work toward justice,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Perske Award was established by The Arc in 2018 to further the legacy of Bob Perske by recognizing individuals who champion the rights of people with I/DD in the criminal justice system. As a former Executive Director of a chapter of The Arc, Perske’s legacy was in volunteering his time to assist defendants with I/DD who were unjustly accused and their defense attorneys. Perske famously fought for more than 25 years to win the freedom of Richard LaPointe, a man with Dandy Walker Syndrome, who was incarcerated for more than 26 years after falsely confessing to a murder he could not have committed.  He also played a critical role in winning the posthumous pardon in 2011 of Joe Arridy, a 23-year-old man with an intellectual disability, executed in 1939 after falsely confessing to a rape and murder he did not commit.

“For more than a decade, Bob was a partner in a shared passion to shed light on the systemic problem of false and coerced confessions. Bob taught me that far too often, it’s people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are placed in peril during interrogations and in court proceedings simply because actors in our criminal justice system ignore or don’t recognize their disabilities.  Bob’s work, often accompanied by beautiful illustrations from his wife Martha, humanized those with disabilities and spotlighted the many ways in which they were abused.  My respect and admiration for Bob and his work is boundless and difficult to put into words – receiving this award in his name is the greatest honor I could receive, and I thank The Arc for the work it does to fight for change in our criminal justice system for people with disabilities,” said Drizin.

Upon Perske’s passing in 2016, The Arc created The Robert Perske Fund for Criminal Justice to support carrying on his legacy through the work of The Arc and our National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD).

About The Arc

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h I/DD, including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, and cerebral palsy. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

About The Arc’s Criminal Justice Advisory Panel

The Advisory Panel is the latest addition to NCCJD’s ongoing work to protect the rights of people with I/DD involved in the criminal justice system. It brings together legal professionals who share The Arc’s mission to protect and promote the civil rights of people with I/DD and will help expand NCCJD’s crucial advocacy. The Advisory Panel is led by Cliff Sloan, partner at  Skadden Arps, whose pro bono litigation experience includes securing a victory for a death row inmate with intellectual disability before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Elizabeth Kelley, a solo practitioner specializing in defending individuals with I/DD and mental health disabilities, and The Arc’s CEO, Peter Berns.

New Data Reveals Our Nation is Failing to Support People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC – The Arc of the United States released the Family & Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) Community Report 2017today. The intent of this one-of-a-kind survey, conducted by The University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration in collaboration with The Arc, is to understand the experiences of families who provide supports to a family member with intellectual or other developmental disabilities (I/DD). This is the second FINDS Report that The Arc has released; the first was conducted in 2010, and released in 2011.

An estimated 7.3 million people with I/DD live in the United States, with the majority living in their family home and receiving support from a family member. The report includes survey responses from over 3,000 caregivers and provides information on the economic implications, logistical challenges, and major gaps that exist in caregiving infrastructure.

The FINDS Survey revealed that, despite the progress that many states have made to increase availability of resources and public funding to provide supports for caregivers and individuals with disabilities, many critical challenges remain. The study revealed that:

  • 80% of individuals with I/DD live with a caregiver who is their family member. Alternatively, access to affordable and accessible housing outside a family home, in a setting with adequate supports, remains a challenge for people with I/DD.
  • Most caregivers (54%) reported that they did not have a plan for the future.  Caregivers share a long list of concerns about what will happen to their loved one with disabilities when they are no longer able to support them.  Planning ahead can help guide a person with I/DD to lead a good life as independently as possible. A plan is important throughout all stages of life and especially in the future after the parent or caregiver is no longer able to provide support.
  • 50% of individuals with I/DD leave high school without a high school diploma. This is concerning because having a high school diploma is crucial in being considered in a competitive job market.
  • Only a minority of individuals with I/DD are fortunate enough to be employed, and on average they work only 26 hours per two-week period.  There is lack in diversity of the type of work being done; sixty percent (60%) of those employed work in retail, janitorial, landscaping, or food service jobs.
  • More than 3 out of 4 survey respondents described that since becoming a caregiver they are more aware of policy issues and more involved in advocacy, including calling their legislators.  Ninety-five percent (95%) say that they vote, much higher than is typical for the voting age population as a whole.

The FINDS Survey results highlight the challenges faced by caregivers in our nation. With respondents reporting an average of 57 hours of support provided to their loved one each week, 95% of caregivers reported being stressed and nearly 50% reporting being very or extremely stressed. This affects the ability of caregivers to meet their own personal needs, balance family responsibilities, and fulfill professional obligations. Almost all survey respondents who were employed reported that caregiving had a negative impact on their work, whether it was cutting back their hours, turning down promotions, taking a leave of absence, or giving up work entirely to meet the needs of their loved one.

Caregivers also reported that they would like their employers to do more to help them be successful in balancing their work and family responsibilities, such as provide medical and dental insurance, flexible spending accounts, flexible scheduling, and supportive and understanding supervisors and co-workers.

“In every aspect of life – from education, to employment, to planning for a stable future – we as a society are failing in our support of caregivers of people with disabilities and falling short of our obligation to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. This report paints a picture of the day-to-day needs of caregivers, and should ignite action to address the gaps that stop us from achieving full inclusion of people with disabilities in the community throughout their lifetime.

“People with disabilities have an undeniable and moral right to be fully included in all aspects of society. As the largest civil rights organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities nationwide, we will continue our advocacy to ensure that supports are in place to promote the human and civil rights of people with disabilities.

“Too often, we in the disability community preach to the choir.  This report should raise awareness and help engage new activists to our cause from all walks of life. People with disabilities in our nation have faced decades of discrimination and overcome much adversity, but we still have a long way to go before we have a truly inclusive society. The FINDS Report highlights areas we need to focus on and should serve as a rallying cry to advocates nationwide who recognize people with disabilities and their families deserve better,” says Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

About the FINDS Survey
The FINDS survey was implemented primarily using an on-line survey between January and March of 2017. The survey was also made available in English and Spanish paper versions. Caregivers who were family members or friends of people with I/DD and who provided support were invited to participate in this survey. Direct support professionals or other caregivers whose primary relationship with individuals with I/DD was in a paid role were not included in the sample.

More than 3,000 people (3,398) met the criteria to be included in the survey and consented to partici­pate. Caregivers were surveyed including respondents from all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The number of people responding was large and provides important information about the experiences and outcomes of family caregivers of individuals with I/DD in the United States.  However, the sample is not reflective of the racial and economic diversity of the United States.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

The Arc Responds to Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Ruling in Bobby Moore Case

Washington, DC – Earlier this week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) ruled that Bobby Moore did not have intellectual disability and could, therefore, be executed in Texas. The 5-3 CCA decision ignored the request of State prosecutors who—in light of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Moore v. Texas—urged the CCA to find that Mr. Moore did meet the criteria for intellectual disability and should therefore have his sentence commuted to life in prison rather than be subject to the death penalty in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. 

“The facts in this case are clear—so much so that prosecutors acknowledged that Mr. Moore met the criteria for intellectual disability following the Supreme Court’s decision—and Mr. Moore should therefore be protected by Supreme Court decisions that ban the execution of persons with intellectual disability as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.  The Arc will continue fighting for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and in the aftermath of this case we will only increase our legal advocacy efforts to ensure that the Supreme Court’s decisions are upheld and justice is appropriately served,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the CCA’s prior decision finding that Mr. Moore did not meet the criteria for intellectual disability and could be executed based on its use of stereotypical and outdated factors—instead of well-established clinical standards—to determine intellectual disability in death penalty cases. Judge Elsa Alcala who authored the CCA’s dissenting opinion this week, issued a strong rebuke to the majority: “this Court has set forth an unconstitutional standard for intellectual disability that continues to permit consideration of wholly subjective, non-clinical factors and stereotypes…This Court’s approach…is eerily reminiscent of the seven Briseno factors that were held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.”

The Arc of the United States and The Arc of Texas filed an amicus brief with the CCA in support of Mr. Moore, joining a broad range of prominent entities and individuals with diverse perspectives and views on the death penalty who filed briefs urging the CCA to grant relief for Mr. Moore. The Arc’s amicus brief noted that the framework established by the Supreme Court requiring courts to consult clinical standards in making intellectual disability determinations in death penalty cases laid a sound foundation for the CCA to determine that Mr. Moore meets the criteria for intellectual disability and cannot be executed.

In her dissent, Judge Alcala cited The Arc’s amicus brief, noting that it “correctly observe[s] that ‘there is a wide gap between the clinical definition and expectations that many laypeople have about intellectual disability…these ‘common misimpressions include beliefs that people with intellectual disability are essentially identical to one another and that all are incapable of any but the most rudimentary tasks.’”

In its 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the special risk of wrongful execution faced by persons with ID and banned the execution of persons with ID as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Subsequently, in Hall v. Florida (2014), the Court rejected an arbitrary cutoff for IQ scores in making the intellectual disability determination and emphasized the importance of courts consulting clinical standards in their analysis. Most recently, in Moore v. Texas (2017), the Court rejected Texas’ use of stereotypical and outdated factors—rather than well-established clinical standards—to determine intellectual disability in death penalty cases on the grounds that they “create an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed.”
The Arc has deep sympathy for the family and friends of the victim in this case, and we supported appropriate punishment of all responsible parties. The Arc did not seek to eliminate punishment of Mr. Moore or others with disabilities, but rather, to ensure that justice is served and the rights of all parties are protected. The Arc is committed to seeking lawful outcomes for people with ID and will continue working to ensure that the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on this issue are abided by in jurisdictions across the country.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of nearly 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

The Arc Responds to Latest Attacks on the Affordable Care Act

“Another example of the Trump Administration’s intent to undermine access to health insurance for millions of people with disabilities”

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will refuse to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a lawsuit brought challenging the constitutionality of the law by the state of Texas. In a legal filing, administration officials said that key parts of the Affordable Care Act should be invalidated. 

 “The actions of the Department of Justice are another example of the Trump Administration’s intent to undermine access to health insurance for millions of people with disabilities by dismantling the Affordable Care Act.  It exposes the Administration’s intent to eliminate critical protections for people with pre-existing conditions who benefit from provisions in the law that assure access to affordable health insurance.

“The ongoing attempts to dismantle this law highlight a disturbing disregard, by the Trump Administration, for the needs of people with disabilities who rely on the Affordable Care Act for their health and wellbeing. The Arc remains steadfast in our commitment to advocate and protect this law and the benefits it provides for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc. 

The Department of Justice is responding to a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas and several other states in federal district court in February 2018 seeking to invalidate the ACA as unconstitutional in light of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. While the Administration’s response did not go as far as the claims in the Texas lawsuit, it is a rare response for the Department of Justice to not defend an existing law.

 The Arc submitted a declaration in support of a Motion to Intervene in Texas v. United States filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and joined by 16 other attorneys general. The State of California and 16 other states seek to enter the lawsuit to defend the ACA. In its declaration, The Arc noted that it views the ACA “as critical for people with I/DD and their families in providing benefits, supports, and civil rights protections that help make community living possible.”

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of nearly 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Creating Healthy Habits with The Arc of Kentucky & The Arc of Central Kentucky

Throughout 2017, The Arc of Kentucky and The Arc of Central Kentucky participated jointly in The Arc’s Health and Fitness for All program. Health and Fitness for All addresses increased obesity propensity in the disability community by teaching healthy eating, portion control, and physical activity and helping individuals with I/DD adopt healthy habits and lead healthier lives. Sherri Brothers chatted with us about the chapter’s work, the importance of teaching healthy habits, and how other chapters can do the same.

 

Tell us about your chapter’s Health and Fitness for All efforts. How did you hear about the program? How are you tailoring the program to your chapter and participants?

Health & Fitness was created in Kentucky because of the obesity rates, sedentary lifestyles, and unhealthy eating habits. Some of our individuals were not well- educated in nutrition facts or the options of exercise. The Arc of Kentucky heard about the program through The Arc of United States. We created an individualized program for each person. One young man with autism in our program loved writing but had no interest in exercise at all. A psychologist used the young man’s interest in writing to facilitate a relationship with others who loved writing. We created a program where he would start working out on a stationary bike while at the same time sharing his stories with his peers and the psychologist. He now enjoys exercising and looks forward to class each week.

Sherri Brothers, executive director of The Arc of Kentucky, participates in a fitness class with another instructor and two students..

Why do you think it’s important for people with disabilities to learn about living a healthy lifestyle?

Chronic ill health can diminish an individual’s enjoyment in and ability to engage in all that life has to offer. By providing people with I/DD an opportunity to make informed decisions about their health by educating them on the value of proper nutrition and exercise and the impact it can have on how they feel physically and emotionally, we are giving them the tools to own their well-being. That is the key to success.

Was the program successful? How so?

Yes! We have seen so many positive outcomes in the time we’ve been running the program: program weight loss – 168 pounds; lowered blood pressures, regular participation in exercise programs; participants learning how to shop and making healthier food selections; learning how to prepare healthier meals; and improved self-esteems and friendships made. At our three-month post-training check in, Annie has lost an additional 38 pounds and wants more information about healthy diets. Josh is watching his diet and is using less salt. Shaud is drinking more water and changed to drinking diet soda over sugary drinks. Nyketta has joined the YMCA to be able to continue her exercise.

Are you planning on expanding the program past the conclusion of the 12-week training? How so?

We passed the 12-week program and are planning to offer an additional four weeks of fitness classes in the fall and four weeks of cooking classes. We are also starting The Health & Fitness for All in other local chapters around the state. I am visiting with them, providing materials to them, and replicating the program which was very successful in our chapters — although encouraging them to tailor the program to their individuals’ needs. This just gives them a starting point – some helpful materials, ideas to start creating field trips, speakers, activities, games, etc.

What advice do you have for other chapters looking to implement health and lifestyle programs to enrich the lives of their constituents?

My advice is to look at the program as an enjoyable lifestyle change for the individuals. Think of it as creating a fun atmosphere for them to create the class, participate as the leaders in the class and the games. For instance, you teach a dance class, and then have each participant lead their favorite dance routine.

Tell us about all the great things your chapter is doing! If you’re interested in being spotlighted, please email Pam Katz at katz@thearc.org.

May 2018 #HandsOff Blog – A Policy & Advocacy Internship with The Arc

#HandsOff is a series on The Arc Blog. Each month, we feature a story from individuals and families across The Arc’s network about how some of today’s key policy issues impact their day to day lives.

By: Peter Contos

Peter ContosAs my Paul Marchand Policy Internship at The Arc’s national office in Washington, DC comes to a close, I want to reflect on the importance of advocacy.

Advocacy has always been an important part of my life. My brother and I were raised to try and understand life from various perspectives, and through this I gained an appreciation for people coming from all walks of life. My mother is a speech language pathologist, and many of her students have disabilities. It was through connecting with her students, along with supporting a family member with autism, where I found my calling in disability advocacy.

I was incredibly lucky to attend public schools that were relatively inclusive. My high school offers a class which pairs students from the general and special education curriculums, in subjects like cooking and art. I was fortunate enough to be in the class my senior year, and the relationships that blossomed throughout were very important to me. That class represents one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable moments of my academic career.

Throughout high school, I was also a part of the Miracle League, a baseball league accessible to kids and young adults with a range of disabilities. The enthusiasm and joy that the game brought to players, volunteers, parents, and fans was undeniable, and it was in those moments where I knew advocacy was the right path for me.

Through volunteering with The Arc of Northwest Wayne County (MI) for the past six years, I have attended the Disability Policy Seminar (DPS). DPS is an incredible opportunity for self-advocates and allies to come together to learn more about important policy issues, and the advocacy we can use to support key programs. This year’s DPS featured a few sessions that really empowered me to continue my advocacy work. In the opening general session, we heard from Rebecca Cokley from the Center for America Progress, and Mike Oxford from ADAPT, both of whom have extensive experience as advocates. The personal stories they told were incredibly powerful, and through them, I learned about the tools they use to communicate their priorities. I also attended the Update on Employment Policy session, where we heard from a representative from the Department of Labor and a key Senate staff member, Michael Gamel-McCormick, about the work they are doing to make sure there are enough incentives and training available for employers to hire people with disabilities.

My favorite part of DPS every year is the Hill visits. This year, I was able to meet with three Congressional offices. Using a combination of statistics and personal stories, the group that I attended with effectively advocated for a variety of programs, including Money Follows the Person, but also to protect vital programs like Medicaid and Social Security, along with continuing to promote equity in educational opportunity.

I’ve continued my advocacy through action post-DPS by attending a rally on Capitol Hill opposing cuts and restructuring of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). This rally was well attended by disability advocates and coalition organizations, and it was an opportunity to listen to stories about the importance of SNAP — including several by Members of Congress sharing their personal experiences with the program.

I will be graduating from college in June, and I look forward to continuing my advocacy fight wherever I end up. I plan to use the knowledge and tools that I’ve gained since moving to DC to mobilize the communities I am a part of in my future.

Food Assistance for Millions with Disabilities Protected: The Arc on House Voting Down the Farm Bill

The Arc released the following statement after news that the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as the “Farm Bill”, failed to pass the United States House of Representatives. The Farm Bill reauthorizes farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“The current version of the Farm Bill was just the latest attack on programs that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on. If enacted as is, the Farm Bill voted down by the House today would have cut basic food assistance for children, adults, and seniors who are struggling to put food on the table. We are grateful to Members of Congress who recognized what this legislation would have meant for their constituents and voted no.

“We fundamentally disagree with the notion embedded throughout the proposed bill that some people are more “deserving” of basic food assistance than others. Approximately 11 million people with disabilities across the United States rely on SNAP to help them eat. Cutting off SNAP – including through new and harsher work and reporting requirements – would only make it harder for people with disabilities and their families to access the food they need to work and to survive. If policymakers want to increase employment, Congress needs to make major new investments in job training and supports and services for job-seekers with disabilities and their families – not cut off their basic food assistance.

“We are relieved that the current version of this legislation was not passed, but recognize there is still work to do. The Farm Bill has a long history of bipartisan collaboration and support. Our hope is that Congressional leaders will work together to develop a bipartisan proposal for reauthorizing the Farm Bill that strengthens and protects SNAP,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy, The Arc.

On net, the bill voted on by the House today proposes deep cuts to food assistance under SNAP. As taken up by the full House, an estimated 2 million people would lose their SNAP food assistance or see their benefits reduced under the bill.

  • The bill would significantly expand SNAP’s existing work requirements, forcing SNAP beneficiaries age 18 to 59 to engage in work or job training activities for at least 20 hours per week. The bill’s exceptions for people raising very young children or supporting a family member who is “incapacitated” (as stated in the bill) are likely to prove woefully inadequate and extremely difficult for people with disabilities to navigate. Ultimately, these new requirements would cause many people to lose their food assistance, making it harder for them to work, based on experience with existing work requirements in SNAP and other programs.
  • While the bill calls for greater access to job training programs, new federal investments would be funded largely by cuts to SNAP food benefits, and analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that funding levels for job training would be highly insufficient.
  • The bill also includes extensive new reporting requirements with harsh consequences if a person misses a deadline.

Fostering Community Connection through Comcast Cares Day: The Arc of Macomb County

Executive Spotlight

Lisa Lepine

The Arc of Macomb County

Clinton Township, MI

For over 15 years, Comcast Cares Day has provided an opportunity for Comcast NBCUniversal staff to volunteer their time with non-profits, schools, parks and other organizations to a positive impact within their local communities. Once again this year, chapters of The Arc across the country partnered with ComcastUniversal – and The Arc of Macomb County was one such chapter. Lisa Lepine, the chapter’s executive director, chatted with us about her chapter’s work and the value of inclusive volunteering.

  1. Tell us about your project for Comcast Cares Day! What type of project did you do? Are there any other community entities or groups that you partnered with? How many people did you impact in your community?

    Approximately 50 Comcast volunteers, from ages 6 to 60, spent Comcast Cares Day with more than a dozen employees, board members, and clients of The Arc of Macomb. The Arc of Macomb serves several hundreds of people per year, including operating a day program, organizing community outings, and providing employment services for people with developmental disabilities. Comcast volunteers organized the project of removing landscape rocks and weeds, installing barriers, and replacing the rocks; cleaning other landscaping and hardscaping; and repairing and painting walls inside the building. Some of Comcast’s employees drove almost two hours to attend the event! Several of the younger volunteers painted rocks to distribute throughout the grounds, beautifying the appearance for The Arc’s employees and clients. Both frequent and new visitors have appreciated and commented on the improvements from Comcast’s volunteers.
  2. How did you get connected with Comcast?

    The Arc of Macomb has used Comcast Business for its internet and phone systems for approximately four years. The Arc chose Comcast for its reputation for reliability and service.  Although occasional outages are unavoidable, Comcast has consistently provided accurate estimates of expected downtime and repairs, enabling The Arc to effectively allocate its resources during interruptions in service. Comcast’s on-site technicians have been helpful, timely, and worked well with The Arc’s IT company to keep things running smoothly.
  3. Why do you think it is important to engage in inclusive volunteering in your community?

    The Arc of Macomb’s mission is to help people with disabilities and their families engage meaningfully in their communities. Volunteerism – from everybody! – is an important and inclusive way for people to interact with people in their communities, particularly with people whom they might not otherwise meet. Volunteer events like Comcast Cares Day fosters connectedness among people in a community and thereby strengthens the community in immeasurable ways.
  4. What advice do you have for other chapters and organizations looking to get involved in inclusive volunteer opportunities?

    Many people want to volunteer in their community, but they don’t always know exactly how. Conversely, organizations always want volunteer help, but the volunteer opportunities they have don’t always line up with the volunteers’ availability. Comcast’s organizers scheduled a clearly defined date and time a few months in advance, held a pre-event planning meeting a few weeks before the event, clearly communicated the details of our organization and of the event, and obtained the necessarily materials in advance. The planning of the event, combined with the communication of the details of the organization and of the event, were critical to the success of the event. Going forward, most volunteerism will be centered on a clearly defined event, with clear and concise descriptions of the organization and the event.

See more photos from The Arc of Macomb’s volunteer day.