The Arc on Proposed Rule from The Trump Administration That Would Impact People with Disabilities Legally Residing in the US and Seeking to Legally Immigrate

Following the draft notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are legally residing in the United States as well as people with I/DD who are hoping to legally immigrate, The Arc released the following statement:

“We are facing a civil rights crisis in our nation and people with disabilities are in the crosshairs with the proposed rule released by the Department of Homeland Security. If finalized and administered as is, this rule would discriminate against immigrants with disabilities, making it harder to legally enter or remain in the country.  To deport individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in our country legally or prevent them from immigrating, goes against the values of our nation.

“At The Arc we believe people should have a fair opportunity to legally enter and reside in the United States and become a citizen, without restrictions based on disability. This includes those needing protection as refugees, asylees, and victims of human trafficking.

“Focusing on an individual’s need for support is a form of discrimination against people with disabilities we have seen before.  But Congress, in the past, addressed the problem by ensuring that people with intellectual disability are provided accommodations as they try to enter our country legally, become citizens, and achieve the American dream like their peers without disabilities. Broadening the criteria for excluding or deporting immigrants based on need for support will harm people with disabilities and their families who have much to contribute to our society.

“If a family is otherwise eligible to enter or remain in our country, they shouldn’t be turned away or turned out because their child or another family member has a disability and may need to access government services to live and participate in the community.

“We will be offering comments to this proposed rule and hope other organizations and individuals will do the same. It would be disgraceful if this were to be adopted as a final rule.  We also call on Members of Congress, as they have done in the past, to stand up for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families as they seek inclusion in America,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc Responds to Norm Macdonald’s Down Syndrome Comment

The Arc released the following statement in response to Norm Macdonald’s remarks about people with Down syndrome:

“It is disheartening that yet again we need to remind a public figure to show respect for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  What is particularly disturbing about Norm Macdonald’s comment is that in his attempt to explain away his insensitivity to the #MeToo movement, he chose to mock a group of people who have a much greater understanding of victimization than he does.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than those without disabilities. Mr. Macdonald’s comment is doubly offensive and shows his ignorance about the disability community. We welcome the opportunity to educate Mr. Macdonald about the disability rights movement and hope that in the future he will show more respect for millions of people with disabilities, their families, and all victims of sexual assault,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Anthony Nash Says #HandsOff During August Recess!

#HandsOff is a series on The Arc Blog where individuals and families across The Arc’s network share their stories about how some of today’s key policy issues impact their day to day lives.

Anthony Nash stands in front of the Capitol building in Washington DC wearing a long sleeve burgundy shirt and slacks. During August Recess, Members of Congress return to their home states to meet with their constituents. It’s the perfect time for advocates to meet with legislators and tell them #HandsOff important programs – like Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and much more.

Nobody says #HandsOff during August Recess better than Anthony Nash! Anthony is an active self-advocate in his home state of Washington. He is a member of The Arc’s National Council of Self-Advocates and The Arc of Washington’s Self-Advocates in Leadership (SAIL) coalition. Anthony also serves on the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council and the board of Disability Rights Washington.

Anthony has fought for issues important to people with disabilities for several years. Here’s what he had to say about advocacy during August Recess:

How did you get involved in advocacy?

I used to work in a sheltered workshop. I got pushed around a lot and even called the r-word there. So one day, I went to the library and asked the librarian for books on disability rights. I read about how people with disabilities have [the same] equal rights as any other person. After that, I joined some advocacy groups and started to stand up for myself.

What does being a self-advocate mean to you?

Self-advocacy means quite a bit to me. A lot of people look down on people with disabilities and think we can’t amount to anything. I do everything I can to prove them wrong. Being a self-advocate lets me show others that we are equal, that we deserve respect, and that we should not be discriminated against in any manner.

Why do you think it is important for people with disabilities to advocate for programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) during August Recess?

These programs are our lifeline! Most of our leaders don’t understand that these programs cover significant needs. Since I was four years old, SSI has helped to pay for my food, clothes, transportation, and other living expenses. I use Medicaid to pay for the medicine and doctor visits I need. Self-advocates need to speak up during August Recess when legislators are back home so they know why these programs are important to us.

 

Ready to join Anthony in saying #HandsOff during August Recess? Take a few minutes to call YOUR Members of Congress and tell them why Medicaid and SSI are important to you. Then encourage your family and friends to call, too!

The Arc Condemns Plan to Fund Paid Leave by Putting Retirement Security at Risk

Today, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced legislation to provide new parents with a partially-paid leave benefit, funded by cutting their future Social Security retirement benefits. Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) has indicated that she plans to introduce similar legislation in September.

“While we appreciate Senator Rubio and Representative Wagner turning their attention to paid leave, this legislation completely misses the mark. It is unconscionable to make workers choose between time with their family after the birth or adoption of a child and a secure retirement.

“In addition, this legislation offers a very limited benefit that won’t meet the needs of many families, such as parents who need extended leave to care for an infant born with multiple disabilities. Furthermore, this plan doesn’t address the most common reason workers take leave – namely, to address a serious illness of their own or of a family member.

“It is shocking that the authors of this bill think that asking people to sacrifice their future financial security for time with their family is appropriate or a solution.  Our nation can and should put in place an inclusive and fiscally responsible paid leave policy that reflects the full range of workers’ leave needs, including people with disabilities and their families. The Arc calls on Congress to reject the Rubio/Wagner plan and the harmful trade-offs that it promotes,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

A 2017 research paper by The Arc and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality found that workers with disabilities and working family members of people with disabilities face significant barriers to economic security and stability. On average, lower incomes and added disability-related costs leave many people with disabilities and their families disproportionately living in or near poverty, including in old age. These findings highlight the importance of paid family and medical leave and Social Security to the financial well-being of people with disabilities and their families.

The Arc recently released the Family & Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) Community Report 2017. The FINDS Survey results highlight the challenges faced by caregivers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) 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. Nearly 90% of caregivers reported that partial paid leave would be helpful to them as they support their loved one with I/DD.

The Arc Responds to the Trump Administration’s Final Rule on Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released the final “short-term plan” rule. These “short-term plans” can provide hollow coverage with hidden gaps for those who sign up. Expanding short-term plans will raise premiums and reduce plan choices for individuals and employers in the regular insurance market.

The proposal expands availability of a group of products that may implement discriminatory practices. This will likely draw healthier individuals off the Marketplace by offering them skinnier, medically-underwritten products, which will inflate prices and out-of-pocket costs on the Marketplace. The Arc believes that insurance coverage must ensure access to timely, affordable, high quality, and comprehensive health care that meets the needs of individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions.

Expanding access to short-term plans will move us even further away from achieving these goals. Short-term plans are not subject to consumer protections that have tremendous value for individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions, such as mandated essential health benefits, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, prohibitions on use of lifetime or annual caps, and other non-discrimination provisions.  For these reasons, The Arc, in partnership with a coalition of other disability rights organizations known as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, released comments earlier this year opposing this rule.

“The Affordable Care Act ended the practice of discriminatory health insurance practices; this rule allows insurance companies to once again set higher premiums based on health conditions. This limits access to comprehensive coverage and that will have a dire impact on people with significant health issues, like individuals with chronic illness and disabilities.

“Make no mistake, today’s final rule undermines current law and puts Americans with pre-existing conditions at risk. We remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the Affordable Care Act and the benefits it provides for people with disabilities,” said Julie Ward, Deputy Executive Officer for Public Policy, The Arc.

The Arc Celebrates the 28th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA Bday Graphic

Today, marks the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA affirms the rights of citizens with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities, and telecommunications. It is a wide-ranging law intended to make our society accessible to people with disabilities.

“Today we celebrate one of the greatest victories for people with disabilities in America. 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. The passage of this transformative legislation would not have been possible without the hard work of Congressional leaders and disability advocates. While today we celebrate, we must also recognize recent threats to the ADA and the need for unity in our community. The Arc played a leadership role in the passage of the ADA nearly three decades ago and we remain committed to everything this landmark law stands for. We will actively oppose any attempts to weaken or dismantle the ADA,” said Mary Ford, Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy, The Arc.

REV UP for National Disability Voter Registration Week, July 16-20

July 16-20, 2018 is National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW)! The REV UP Campaign, organized by the American Association of People with Disabilities, coordinates NDVRW each year to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated about the upcoming election, and ready to cast their ballots. REV UP stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use Your Power! The campaign aims to increase the engagement of the disability community around voting. Across the country, many chapters of The Arc are coordinating events in their communities for NDVRW in partnership with REV UP.

NDVRW is especially important this year because 2018 is big election year, with elections on the federal, state and local levels. People with disabilities have powerful potential to make their perspectives heard by voting. According to a research report from Rutgers University, there were 35.4 million eligible voters with disabilities in 2016. When we include family members of people with disabilities, the disability community makes up 25% of the total electorate. Yet, people with disabilities often face barriers to voting which often leads to the registering and voting in lower numbers than people without disabilities. Let’s change that!

Ready to celebrate NDVRW and make your voice heard? Here’s how you can get involved:

Image says "Register to vote today: National Disability Voter Registration Week July 16-20" and shows a pen filling in a voting ballot.

  • Register to Vote – Make sure you are registered to vote and your registration is up to date.
  • Register your Friends – Spread the word! Make sure your family and friends are registered to vote, too.
  • Find Out More – Registering is just the first step! To learn more about state laws, where to vote, specific elections, and more, visit The Arc’s Know Your Right to Vote webpage and Self Advocates Becoming Empowered GoVoter site.

 

 

The Arc Responds to Trump Administration’s Latest Assault on the Affordable Care Act

Yesterday, the Trump Administration announced funding cuts to programs that assist people enrolling in health insurance. It would result in severe cuts to the Navigator program totaling more than $25 million. Specifically, the funding cuts would decrease the program budget from $36.8 million this year to $10 million in 2019.

Health Care Navigators provide in person assistance to individuals as they enroll in health insurance plans. Programs like this provide essential support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and others who are seeking support as they enroll in health insurance plans.

“The Navigator program provides important support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are dealing with the complexities of finding the right health insurance program to fit their unique needs. Slashing the program creates additional barriers to enrollment in health insurance. This funding cut highlights intent of the Administration to undermine access to health insurance for millions of people with disabilities.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the Affordable Care Act and the benefits it provides for people with disabilities. Our hope is that Members of Congress will realize the dire impact that funding cuts to this program will have in their states and remedy the situation,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy, The Arc.

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.

Answering the Call to Service: Promoting Inclusion through Community Volunteering

For The Arc, the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Everybody can be great because everyone can serve” – has a special meaning. Many perceive people with disabilities as the ones in need of service – but in reality, they are an important part of civic engagement at the state, local, and national levels. That’s why we’re grateful to have been selected for a third year by the Corporation for National and Community Service to execute volunteer projects for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

We issued grants to 12 of our chapters across the country to engage in events that addressed the problem of food insecurity in communities across the country. Events included sandwich-making competitions, donation cook-offs, food drives and delivery, and food bank volunteer events. Each chapter’s creative and engaging projects helped further our mission of community inclusion and participation for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

 “I think it is very important as citizens and self-advocates that we show we care about the needs of people around us by getting outside our own routines and giving our time and energy to the Martin Luther King projects… I was very happy to serve in whatever way I was able to such a good cause and project.” – Sean Lewis, President of Tulsa People First in Oklahoma

Our 2018 grantees included The Arc of the Glades (FL), The Arc of Nature Coast (FL), The Arc of South Carolina, The Arc of Northeastern Pennsylvania (PA), The Arc Rockland (NY), The Arc of Kent County (MI), The Arc of the Quad Cities Area (IL), The Arc of North Texas (TX), TARC (OK), The Arc of Davidson County and Greater Nashville (TN), The Arc of Lane County (OR), and Choices for Community Living – Delaware (a subsidiary of Liberty Arc (NY).

Inclusive volunteering gives people with and without I/DD the opportunity to meet new people in the community while helping those in need. These new connections can lead to long-lasting friendships that impact not only community members being served by the volunteers but the volunteers themselves. The projects also have led to building job skills and new community partnerships. Volunteering truly is a win-win for everyone involved! To date, chapters have collectively done 4,285 hours of service with 762 volunteers and helped 10,609 people. Congratulations to each chapter on their 2018 events so far – and stay tuned on each chapter’s social media as they continue to host events in their communities.

Martin Luther King, Jr. also said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” In our chapters, people with and without disabilities continue to answer this call to service year after year.

 

Learn more about The Arc’s volunteering efforts at thearc.org/inclusive-volunteering.