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.

The Arc Reacts to Newest Autism Prevalence Data Showing 15% Increase in Two Years

Washington, DC – Yesterday, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continues to rise. The new rate of 1 in 59 children with autism reflects nearly a 16% increase from two years ago when the CDC released data stating that the prevalence hadn’t risen since 2014, when the rate of 1 in 68 children with autism was announced.

“A decade ago the CDC reported 1 in 125 children had autism and related disorders. Today’s data shows more than double the prevalence of autism in our nation since 2008 and emphasizes the need for better services and supports for people with autism and their families. People with autism live in all our communities – they are members of our families, they are our friends, they are active in our places of worship, they work with us, they teach us, and they are valuable members of society.

“We’ve made progress to raise awareness and improve services, but today’s report reminds us we need to be doing more. We need to be working to ensure that people with autism can receive the individualized supports they need in school, at work, and as they pursue lives in the community of their choosing. We’ve faced many threats recently that could be extremely detrimental to individuals with autism. From an Administration budget request that would have been devastating to people with disabilities; to a state by state effort to cut people off Medicaid, the single largest funding source of services and support for people with autism and their families; to a tax law that jeopardizes critical programswe are still in the fight of our lives and remain ready to advocate for the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities.

“The new prevalence rates underscore the need to reauthorize the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act which expires next year. This law is the primary vehicle for federal funding for surveillance, autism research, screening and diagnostic services, and professional training. The significant variation in prevalence rates between different states points to the need to better understand the contributing factors and to plan for the service needs across the country.

“An important take away from this report is the need for early diagnosis and intervention. The Arc is a resource to young families across the country when it comes to early intervention. With nearly 650 chapters across the country we are the largest service provider to people with autism and other forms of intellectual and developmental disability in the nation. The Arc will continue to lead the way and work with people with autism to support their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

ASDs are a group of developmental disabilities that are often diagnosed in early childhood and can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges over a lifetime. The Arc is the largest provider organization for people with autism in the United States. Chapters of The Arc provide services and supports for people with autism, their families, and service providers.

The Arc Opposes Administration Proposal to Raise Rents in HUD Housing

Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson released proposed legislation that would raise rents and allow new work requirements for millions of low-income people who receive basic housing assistance from HUD. Combined, the bill’s proposals would make it harder for millions of renters – including people with disabilities – to access affordable housing in their community. The HUD bill includes a number of proposals put forward by Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL) in draft legislation and discussed yesterday by the House Committee on Financial Services.

“We’re witnessing an alarming pattern of proposals that will only make it harder for everyday Americans – including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families – to pay for the basics and survive. This new bill, proposed by Housing Secretary Ben Carson, would raise rents on families and individuals who are already struggling to pay for their housing and daily expenses. For many people with disabilities surviving on extremely low incomes, higher rents could be the difference between a life in the community, and life in an institution or on the streets. Congress should reject Secretary Carson’s proposed legislation and instead continue the recent, bipartisan Congressional support that led to new investments in 2018 in affordable housing programs, including for people with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO, The Arc.

HUD’s proposed bill would increase rents for nearly all families across many HUD affordable housing programs, including Section 8, public housing, and the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program:

  • As highlighted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition: “Currently, most families receiving federal housing assistance pay 30% of their adjusted income as rent. Under the proposal, families, with some exceptions, would instead have to pay 35% of their gross income or 35% of the amount earned by working at least 15 hours a week for four weeks at federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. With this provision, HUD would essentially set a new mandatory minimum rent of $150—three times higher than the current minimum rent that housing providers may apply to families.”
  • Households identified as a “disabled family” or “elderly family” would also be subject to new, higher minimum rents. Their rents would be calculated as 30 percent of gross income or a minimum rent of $50 per month, whichever is higher. New “disabled family” tenants would be impacted immediately; existing “disabled family” tenants would see these higher rents phase in over 6 years. To qualify as a “disabled family” or “elderly family” for the purpose of setting the family rent, all adults in the family would have to be a person who meets the HUD definition of disability or be at least 65 years of age. Families that include non-elderly adults with and without disabilities would have to pay 35 percent of gross income or $150 per month.
  • Key income deductions currently used to calculate “adjusted income” in order to set rents would be eliminated—including deductions for medical expenses, disability-related expenses, and child care.
  • HUD would have the authority to create or authorize alternative rent policies that could lead to even higher rents for some or many tenants.

The proposed bill also would give Public Housing Authorities and project-based Section 8 housing owners the option to impose new work requirements. The details of how this would operate would be left up to HUD regulation. The bill fails to offer any new investments to ensure that people can access the supports and services they might need to find and keep a job. By reducing or cutting off basic housing assistance and making it harder for people to remain housed, work requirements will only make it harder for people to get and keep a job – including many people with disabilities and their families.

The Arc Responds to Release of House Farm Bill, Proposed Cuts to Basic Food Assistance

Washington, DC – Yesterday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (TX-11) released a draft of the 2018 Agriculture and Nutrition Act, also known as the “Farm Bill,” to reauthorize farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Arc released the following statement in response to the bill:

“The Arc is deeply concerned that if enacted, Chairman Conaway’s proposed Farm Bill would cut off basic food assistance for children, adults, and seniors who are struggling to put food on the table. 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 are serious about employment, Congress needs to make major new investments in job training and supports and services for jobseekers with disabilities and their families.

“The Farm Bill has a long history of bipartisan collaboration and support. The Arc calls on Members of Congress to vote against this bill and to instead work together to develop a bipartisan proposal for reauthorizing the Farm Bill that strengthens and protects SNAP and provides supports to workers and job seekers,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO, The Arc of the United States.

On net, the Chairman’s draft bill proposes deep cuts to food assistance under SNAP: an estimated 2 million people would lose their SNAP food assistance or see their benefits reduced.

  • 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 children under the age of 6 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 draft bill calls for greater access to job training programs, new federal investments would be funded in large part 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 draft bill also includes extensive new reporting requirements with harsh consequences if a person misses a deadline. For example, a person who fails to provide a monthly utility bill on time could see their SNAP benefits cut.

 

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 Stage is Set for the Next Threats to the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities with President Trump’s Latest Executive Order

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the Trump Administration’s “Executive Order on Economic Mobility”:

“Over the last year, people with disabilities, their families, and other advocates have fought again and again against overt attacks on access to health care and supports and services that make life in the community possible.

“After failing to decimate Medicaid, this Administration announced this week that it intends to open up a new front in this effort – one that aims right at those most in need, the poorest in our country, who have the most to lose.

“If you read between the lines of this executive order, it is a blueprint for sweeping changes that penalize people who are unemployed, across multiple programs. From Medicaid, to housing, to food assistance and other programs – this will result in new barriers to eligibility and denial of critical services. The call for increased economic opportunity is not backed up with provision of tools for individuals to succeed.

“We fundamentally disagree with the notion in here that some eligible people are more ‘deserving’ of benefits than others. This is also part of a pattern. From an Administration budget request that would have been devastating to people with disabilities, to a state by state effort to cut people off Medicaid, to a tax law that jeopardizes critical programs, we are still in the fight of our lives and remain ready to advocate for the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
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 and Walmart Foundation Renew Commitment to Providing Community-Based Employment For People With Disabilities

Washington, DC – The Arc’s employment program, The Arc@Work, is pleased to announce it has received a $325,000, one-year grant from the Walmart Foundation. This funding will be dedicated toward scaling the programs that The Arc@Work and Walmart have created over the past two years to train and place people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in competitive, integrated employment within their communities.

Employment rates for people with disabilities – especially people with I/DD – are critically low compared to people without disabilities. The US Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey (2015) estimates that people with any disability or a cognitive disability are employed at much lower rates (34.3% and 24.8% respectively) than those without disabilities (73.6%). Additionally, the National Core Indicators Survey of 2015-2016 reported that 19% of people with I/DD in the workforce reported having a paid job in the community.

In response to these dire statistics, through funding from the Walmart Foundation, The Arc@Work has  built a successful partnership in working with local chapters of The Arc to provide competitive and community-based employment opportunities and strengthening chapters’ relationships with local businesses since 2016. To do this, The Arc@Work provides technical assistance and an average sub-grant award of $10,000 to chapters of The Arc located across the country that provide community-based employment opportunities.

Over this two-year span, the Walmart Foundation has supported The Arc@Work and chapters of The Arc located across the country in training more than 2,000 individuals and placing more than 800 individuals into competitive and community-based jobs. Additionally, participating chapters of The Arc have forged relationships with nearly 500 local and regional employers to provide trained job candidates and staff training on creating inclusive work environments. This new round of funding will allow for The Arc@Work and chapters of The Arc to achieve even greater impact over the next year.

“For far too long, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been relegated to the margins of the working world. Along with private initiatives, new government regulations promise to dramatically increase the number of people with disabilities placed alongside of people without disabilities in integrated, competitive environments. The support from the Walmart Foundation will allow The Arc to continue to transform the existing pool of talented candidates with disabilities into productive employees,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

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.

Mission Matters: Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Should Remain in HUD’s Mission Statement

The Arc has joined over 570 organizations, led by the National Fair Housing Alliance, calling on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson to retain references to creating “inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination” in the agency’s mission statement. Last week, 164 national organizations – including The Arc – and 409 state and local groups sent a letter to Secretary Carson following news accounts alleging that HUD is contemplating amending its mission statement to remove this language.

“Across the United States, people with disabilities face a crisis when it comes to inclusive, affordable, and accessible housing in the community. Discrimination continues to be a major barrier: over half of fair housing claims filed in 2017 involved discrimination on the basis of disability. Many people with disabilities also face multiple barriers to housing based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and religion, or familial status.

“The Arc has been alarmed by recent news reports that HUD may be considering removing anti-discrimination language from its mission statement. We hope this is not the case. Removing this language would send the wrong message. We call on Secretary Carson to keep inclusion and freedom from discrimination front and center in all of HUD’s work, and to retain this important anti-discrimination language in HUD’s mission statement,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer, Public Policy, The Arc.

The Arc Receives Support from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation for National Disability Employment Program

Washington, DC – The Arc is pleased to announce that its national employment program, The Arc@Work, has received an additional $122,000 over the next two years from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation to support its ongoing efforts to expand its partner program with Specialisterne®. The Arc@Work and Specialisterne®’s program consists of a four-week intensive training curriculum and on-the-job training designed to equip people with autism with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in entry-level IT jobs. Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation previously supported this project of The Arc with $105,000 in funding from 2015-2017.

The Arc has a partnership with Specialisterne USA®, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization established by a Danish nonprofit organization, The Specialist People Foundation, that works to create meaningful employment for people with autism and similar challenges in the technology sector. The program engages top companies with IT needs interested in hiring young adults with ASD and pairs them with chapters of The Arc that provide the four-week training course, during which participants learn the basics about programming and data management while also improving soft skills. At the end of training, participants are hired into partner organizations as developers, programmers, analysts, and administrators. Employers also receive training on supporting employees with ASD and The Arc@Work and Specialisterne® work together to provide follow-up support for program participants.

Chapters of The Arc in Philadelphia and New York were among the first to adopt the Specialisterne program in 2014, but the program has since been adopted by chapters in Tampa Bay and Washington, DC as well. The 2018-2019 grant from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation will allow The Arc to expand this crucial program to new regions throughout the country.

“Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation is committed to empowering young people with disabilities,” said Keijiro Hora, President of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and CEO and President, Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc. “By continuing to support The Arc’s expansion of the

Specialisterne employment model, we hope to see increased numbers of young people with autism empowered to enter the competitive workforce and live productive lives,” continued Hora.

The program emphasizes that many young adults with ASD are qualified to work in highly skilled positions and, with employer commitment and support, they can thrive in community-based jobs of their choosing.

“There are many young people with ASD that possess the skills that are in high demand in the tech industry. This program plays matchmaker, and through our chapter network, we can not only connect a population we serve with employment in the community but also raise awareness in a major industry about what people with disabilities can do. It’s an exciting initiative and we are thrilled to have the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s ongoing support,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

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 Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, based in the Washington, DC area, was established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and the Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies, which produce, sell and distribute a wide range of consumer, industrial, commercial and professional electronics products. The foundation has contributed more than $15 million to organizations that are empowering young people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and productive lives.

The Arc Responds to President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities 2017 Report

Washington, DC – Earlier this month, the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) released the 2017 report “America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis: Effects on People with Intellectual Disabilities, Families, Communities and the U.S. Economy”. The Arc released the following statement in response to the report:

“Direct support professionals play a vital role in the lives of people with intellectual disability and their families, yet as this report outlines, we are facing a crisis when it comes to recruitment and retention in this essential field. These highly skilled workers allow many individuals with intellectual disability to live, work, and learn in the community and lead self-directed lives. But increasingly, our community is losing these vital workers to higher-paying, less demanding jobs where proper training and competitive benefits are provided.

“Nationally the shortage of direct support professionals is a priority initiative for The Arc and our chapter network. We are grateful that this report not only sheds light on this growing epidemic but also offers tangible solutions to the Trump Administration. As this crisis continues, individuals with intellectual disability and their families face uncertainty and anxiety. The Arc and our chapter network remain a resource as we work to address this crisis nationally, but we encourage prompt and immediate action,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc and member of PCPID.

The Arc’s Direct Support Professional (DSP) Toolkit is highlighted in the report. The toolkit was created to support chapters of The Arc with DSP retention and recruitment. This tool was developed and used in pilot demonstrations conducted by the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota.
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 House Passage of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Education and Reform Act

Washington, DC – Today, the House of Representatives passed HR 620, the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Education and Reform Act, a bill that would create additional requirements for filing lawsuits under the ADA. The Arc released the following statement in response to the passage of the bill:

“Individuals with disabilities have faced decades of discrimination, abuse, segregation, and neglect which the ADA was designed to help counter. This sham of a bill weakens the civil rights protections people with disabilities rely on and undermines the opportunities for inclusion made possible by the ADA. The disregard that the authors and supporters of this bill have shown for people with disabilities is an assault on civil rights and an attack on citizens with disabilities.

“Our nation leads the world in respecting and valuing the lives of people with disabilities, fighting tirelessly to promote their rights through landmark legislation like the ADA. This bill is the first step in a dangerous direction and it is unknown where it may lead us. To erase decades of progress is a shameful betrayal of our nation’s values. While there is not a Senate version of this bill yet, we call on our Senators to do the right thing and oppose any attempts to roll back the protections of the ADA. They are our last line of defense against this attack on the civil rights of individuals with disabilities in America,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

If HR 620 becomes law, a person with a disability who is denied access to a business would have to send a letter notifying the business that it is inaccessible and out of compliance with the ADA. The business would then have 60 days to respond and 120 days to make “substantial progress” toward fixing the problem. Only if the business failed to acknowledge the notification or make substantial progress in fixing the violation, could the business be sued. This shift in responsibility for a law that has been on the books for more than 27 years is unacceptable. Complicating and lengthening the notification requirement, thereby restricting the rights of all people with disabilities to have the ADA enforced, further delays their access to and participation in their communities.

HR 620 was drafted in response to concerns about a small number of individuals who have filed ADA lawsuits for financial gain. It is important to note, however, that no monetary damages are available under the ADA; rather, damages are provided under state laws. Thus, HR 620 simply does not solve the problem it is intended to address. It’s only real impact is to dissuade and delay people with disabilities from enforcing their right to be free from discrimination. Excessive lawsuits filed for attorney fees should be addressed through other means aimed at the unscrupulous attorneys involved, not by diminishing the rights of people with disabilities.

 

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.