October 6, 2017 – The Arc’s Statement on House Passage of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget

Washington, DC – Federal budgets lay out the Nation’s priorities for spending and revenue for the decade ahead. The one passed this week by the House of Representatives reflects priorities that can do real and lasting harm to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Entitled “Building a Better America,” this FY 2018 budget would most benefit our wealthiest citizens and it would create a far worse America for most people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) by prioritizing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy over funding for critical disability programs.

The House of Representatives officially began the process of developing a budget for Fiscal Year 2018 by passing a budget resolution that includes provisions which would undermine the foundation of community living for people with I/DD for the second time this year. People with I/DD, their families, caregivers, service providers, and advocates have barely had time to rest from battling to protect Medicaid from massive cuts and fundamental restructuring based on similar language from the joint House-Senate budget resolution for FY 2017 earlier in the year.

The Senate is now working on its version of a budget resolution and, once passed, the House and Senate will have to negotiate which version to adopt or whether to jointly adopt a compromise version. Advocates will continue to oppose inclusion of language deemed harmful to people with disabilities.

It’s Budget Season in Washington – So Far These are the 5 Worst Things for People with Disabilities

By Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy

The President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget released last month would make unprecedented cuts to public education, health, transportation, housing, and countless other effective federal programs. These massive cuts would affect most Americans in one form or another, and would be particularly devastating to people with disabilities and their families. The budget is titled “The New Foundation for American Greatness” – but the reality couldn’t be more different. Here are five reasons the President’s proposed budget is anything but great for people with disabilities.

  1. More Cuts to Medicaid
    Under the President’s proposed budget, Medicaid, the primary health insurance and long term services and supports program for people with disabilities, would lose $610 billion over 10 years (on top of the over $830 billion in cuts in the American Health Care Act passed by the House of Representatives in March). The combined cuts roughly halve the program’s federal budget by 2027. Medicaid’s “optional” services, expected to take the brunt of such a drastic cut, include prescription drugs, physical therapy, and all home and community based services under state plan and “waiver” programs. Medicaid, including home and community based services, makes it possible for millions of people with disabilities to survive and to live and work in the community.
     
  2. Breaks the Promise on Social Security
    Despite President Trump’s promises to not cut Social Security, the budget also calls for over $72 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs over the next 10 years, including cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security and SSI benefits are modest, but absolutely essential for people with disabilities to put a roof over their head, food on the table, and to pay for their out-of-pocket medical expenses and disability related costs.
     
  3. Slashes Community Living Supports
    President Trump’s proposed budget would sharply reduce – or even eliminate – a wide variety of effective federal programs that help to make a life in the community possible for millions of people with disabilities. These include:

    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides essential nutrition assistance for millions of people with disabilities, would face a 29 percent cut over 10 years. By 2027, over 5 million households that include a person with a disability could lose their SNAP benefit under this cut.
    • Affordable housing programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development would face a nearly 15 percent cut in 2018. The President’s budget targets the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program for a proposed $25 million cut in 2018. This would leave the Section 811 program with insufficient funds to renew all existing project-based rental assistance contracts thereby placing current lease compliant tenants in 811 properties at imminent risk of homelessness.
    • Councils on Developmental Disabilities, independent living services, and traumatic brain injury services would see their funding to states eliminated and replaced with a new “innovation” program with less than half of the funding for the three programs.
       
  4. Click here to see a listing of discretionary programs and their proposed percentage cuts.

  5. Inadequate, Unworkable Paid Leave
    The President’s budget proposes a new paid leave program that would provide up to 6 weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. According to the Associated Press, “states would be required to provide leave payments through existing unemployment insurance programs and would have to identify cuts or tax hikes, as needed, to cover the costs.”The proposal has been widely criticized as both unworkable – creating an unfunded mandate to states that would burden and undermine already-fragile unemployment systemsand inadequate. It leaves out the 75% of people who take leave in the U.S. for family caregiving and medical reasons – including people with disabilities who need leave to address their own health, and people who need leave to care for a family member with a disability or illness. In addition, 6 weeks often simply isn’t enough – particularly if you have a disability, are caring for a family member, or have a newborn in intensive care. In comparison, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Finally, benefits would likely be insufficient: on average, state unemployment insurance programs presently only cover one third of a worker’s wages.
     
  6. Uses Bad Math and Benefits the Most Prosperous
    President Trump’s proposed budget purports to cut $3.6 trillion in spending to balance the budget in 10 years, while also offering more than $5.5 trillion in tax reductions. The outsized tax cuts come primarily from reducing or eliminating taxes that are paid predominantly by wealthy households. These include the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, and individual income tax on income earned through “pass-through” entities. The end result is that the budget would overwhelmingly benefit profitable corporations and wealthy individuals.In addition, the entire budget is based on bad math that virtually all independent economic analysts have dismissed.

    • It assumes massive amounts of new revenue from a 50% increase in economic growth resulting from tax cuts, renegotiated trade deals, and deregulation.
       
    • It claims there will be no deficit after 10 years as dramatic economic growth will allow the government to collect about $2 trillion more in tax revenue. However, the budget doesn’t include the cost of the proposed tax cuts, therefore relying on its tax cuts to both pay for themselves and add $2 trillion in additional tax revenue.

Next Steps in the House and Senate

Federal budgets are statement of our nation’s values – and it’s clear to The Arc that this budget simply doesn’t reflect what most Americans value. Fortunately, the President’s budget merely conveys the Administration’s priorities and is non-binding. The House and Senate must each develop their own budgets and reconcile any differences to implement their budget plans.

The House is presently developing its budget and may release it after the July 4 recess and the Senate could take the House’s budget shortly afterwards. The House budget may include many of the harmful provisions in the President’s Budget outlined above.

The Arc and numerous organizations representing civil rights, human services, and other communities are deeply committed to preventing the passage of harmful budgets. We’re working together to put a face on these proposed cuts and to urge Congress to reject the President’s proposed budget.

Trump Budget and Health Care Cuts are Devastating for People with Disabilities, Including Soojung’s Family

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Trump Administration released its first ten year budget proposal, and the numbers are devastating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. On top of the more than $800 billion in Medicaid cuts already approved by the House of Representatives, the Trump Administration is planning for $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid; $72.4 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs; and hundreds of billions more in cuts to other effective federal programs that are vital to people with I/DD.

“Where we invest our federal dollars is a measure of our values as a nation. Today the Trump Administration showed its cards, and coupled with the devastating Medicaid cuts already approved by the House of Representatives in the health care bill, the deck is stacked against people with disabilities.

“In the last few weeks, I’ve traveled to chapters of The Arc in Maryland, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and even Alaska. Chapters of The Arc sprang up in these communities and across the country decades ago because people with disabilities and their families were appalled by the segregation of people with disabilities in inhumane institutions, and they were determined to make progress. And we have fought for rights, closed institutions, opened up the community and classroom, and paved the way to employment. Two effective programs built on bipartisan policy over the years – Medicaid and Social Security – have been essential to this progress. Medicaid provides health care and long term supports that help make a life in the community possible for many people with disabilities, and Social Security is far too often the only thing keeping the lights on and food on the table for a person with a disability.

“That these proposed cuts come in the very same package that is proposing the largest tax cuts in our nation’s history is simply obscene. Giving $5 trillion in tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy individuals and corporations while simultaneously threatening the lives of everyday people defies comprehension.

“This budget – this Trump card – along with the health care cards being played in Congress as we speak, will dismantle decades of progress for people with disabilities and their families. So I’m calling on all advocates to do what they have done for decades, band together to put a face on these cuts. Share your story in your community and with your elected officials, and tell them to reject these cuts, before we go back in time to an era of discrimination and isolation,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

In tandem with this budget news, The Arc is releasing a video which shares the story of a Maryland family which risks losing access to critical care for one of their children due to impending cuts to federal Medicaid funding. The video features Soojung, whose 11-year old daughter Alice, has Rett Syndrome and relies on overnight nursing services to be able to live at home with her family. Soojung speaks about the challenges she and her husband faced accessing these services, including having their requests turned down by private insurers. After years of waiting and uncertainty, Alice was finally accepted to a Medicaid program that provides her with nightly nursing services. These services have led to a great improvement in Alice’s health, making 2016 the first year of her life without a hospital stay.

For many families like Soojung’s, their health and lives could dramatically worsen if the Trump Administration’s proposed Medicaid cuts became a reality or if the over $800 billion in cuts over 10 years to federal Medicaid funding, proposed in the House-approved American Health Care Act (AHCA), go into effect. These cuts would not only force states to cut eligibility for their Medicaid programs, but would also diminish the quality and quantity of services that are provided to people who are already enrolled in these programs.

This video is the fifth in a series of videos The Arc is releasing, sharing the personal stories of people with disabilities and their families, and the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid on their lives.

o   Meet Bryan

o   Meet Thelma

o   Calvin’s Story

o   If I could say one thing

 

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.

What Do Moms Need?

Last week, The Arc was excited to join nearly 50 national organizations that co-sponsored the #MomsDontNeed / #LasMamásNoNecesitan Tweet storm. On Twitter, we called attention to recent actions and policies that threaten mothers and families, and highlighted the kind of supports they and all people truly need to protect and advance their economic security, health, and more.

Moms with disabilities, and moms of children with disabilities, do so much. And across the nation, moms are working harder than ever. With Congress considering legislation to devastate our health care system, and with new reports of major cuts in the works to Medicaid, Social Security disability benefits, and other effective federal programs, so much is at stake – for moms, and for all of us. As The Arc celebrates Mother’s Day, here are three things that we know are vital to supporting mothers and their many contributions.

1. Access to Health Care and Long-Term Supports and Services. Health insurance under the Affordable Care Act can make all the difference in the world. Just listen to Lindsay, mother of toddler Calvin, if you’re not sure why. In addition, for many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Medicaid provides a range of essential medical and long-term supports and services that make community living a reality and for many, can be the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – passed recently by the House of Representatives and now before the Senate – shows callous and dangerous disregard for the wellbeing of people with disabilities and their families. Among the bill’s many harmful provisions, the AHCA would decimate Medicaid, erase health insurance cost protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and cause people to lose essential health benefits under state waivers. The AHCA is one bill that #MomsDontNeed.

2. Economic Security. For most moms and families of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, every penny counts. For example, raising a child with disabilities can be tremendously expensive due to major out of pocket medical and related costs, like adaptive equipment and therapies. For many families, earnings from work aren’t enough to maintain a basic standard of living and cover these often-extraordinary disability-related costs. It’s only possible because of income from Social Security’s disability programs, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Unfortunately, recent news reports suggest that President Trump’s 2018 budget will propose major cuts to Social Security disability benefits, as well as Medicaid and a host of other programs – totaling $800 billion in cuts. That’s another devastating idea that #MomsDontNeed.

3. Paid Family and Medical Leave. Moms with disabilities, and moms of children with disabilities, know better than most that time is a precious resource. At The Arc, we hear often from moms and dads struggling to get enough paid time off work: to be with a new baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; to care for a new baby with disabilities when they first come home; to take their son or daughter to medical appointments, therapies, and after school programs; to attend IEP meetings and other school appointments – and so much more. And while we all love Wonder Woman, let’s face it, moms get sick, too. Moms shouldn’t have to choose between a pay check and a child’s health, or a pay check and their own health. Not moms, not anyone. That’s why The Arc is joining the call for a robust federal paid family and medical leave program. We hope you’ll #JoinOurFight!

The Arc Responds to House Passage of The American Health Care Act: “Shows callous and dangerous disregard for the wellbeing of people with disabilities”

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement following the House of Representatives passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), with the addition of amendments that take the bill from bad to worse for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families:

“Members of the House of Representatives who supported the American Health Care Act voted against their constituents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We won’t soon forget those who so willingly ignored the pleas of their constituents who rely on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid for comprehensive health care coverage and long term services and supports that enable them to live full lives in the community. We must call this what it is – an attack on the rights and lives of people with disabilities.

“The federal government will be walking away from a more than 50 year partnership with states when it comes to Medicaid. Deep cuts and radical restructuring will decimate the Medicaid program. With an over $800 billion cut to Medicaid, states will face difficult choices about what people to cut from the program or what services to roll back. Optional services like home and community based services are likely to be cut. Lives will be lost when people are unable to access the health care and community supports they need.

“The plan that passed the House today is insufficient to keep people with disabilities insured or to support anyone with complex medical needs. If signed into law as currently written, this bill will result in people with disabilities and their family members losing health coverage in the private insurance market and in Medicaid. Coverage also becomes unaffordable as people with pre-existing conditions lose protections against higher premiums.   Those lucky enough to retain their coverage will find that some of the services they need – Essential Health Benefits – are no longer available.  And Medicaid funded long term supports and services, which help people live independently and be included in their communities, will be even scarcer as waiting lists for services will grow all across the country.  Some may end up living in nursing homes and institutions because community services are no longer available.

“The American Health Care Act shows callous and dangerous disregard for the wellbeing of people with disabilities and their families and erases decades of progress.  Now we turn to the Senate, our last line of defense. We intend to work with Senators on both sides of the aisle to oppose this harmful legislation. We continue to encourage disability advocates across the country to reach out to their Senators to voice their concern about this bill,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

This week, The Arc released another video illustrating how Congress’ proposed changes to the ACA and Medicaid would negatively impact Americans with disabilities and their families. The video features an interview with Toby, Lindsay, and Calvin from Fairfax, VA. Calvin has Bilateral Fronto-Parietal Polymicrogyria and Cerebral Palsy and relies on multiple insurance plans to cover his medical and therapeutic treatments.

This video is the second in a series of videos The Arc will be releasing in the coming weeks, sharing the personal stories of people with disabilities and their families, and the impact of the ACA and Medicaid on their lives. The first video featured nine people who rely on the ACA and/or Medicaid, and each one has a personal message for Members of Congress and the Trump Administration.

A New Series Starts Off by Getting Disability Wrong

Over the years, we’ve seen flawed, misleading reporting on Social Security’s disability programs from National Public Radio, 60 Minutes, and the New York Times. Unfortunately, with the recent launch of a new, widely-criticized series, “Disabled America,” The Washington Post has joined the ranks of news media leaving the public with false impressions about Social Security disability benefits — and even, getting the facts plain wrong.

The Post’s new series will focus on how disability “…is shaping the culture, economy and politics…” of rural communities. The first article featured Desmond Spencer of Beaverton, Alabama as he made the difficult decision to call the Social Security Administration to ask about applying for disability benefits. The article relates that Mr. Spencer acquired painful, ongoing injuries during many years working as a roofer, welder, ranch hand, and garbage collector – including falling off a roof and being unable to get treatment due to his lack of health insurance. Readers do not learn whether Mr. Spencer ever applies for benefits, and do not know if he will qualify.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) summed up the first article’s many flaws:

“…the article cherry-picks one of the counties with the highest rates of disability benefit receipt, to create a dystopian portrait where Social Security disability benefits represent out-of-control government spending riddled with rampant abuse.

Reality looks quite a bit different.”

After digging in, CAP researchers revealed that the Post’s numbers are “flat-out wrong,” including its assertion that up to one-third of working-age adults in many rural counties receive disability benefits. CAP explained in detail the errors in the Post’s analysis and why that conclusion simply cannot be substantiated. The Post issued a correction – and CAP and others quickly pointed out ongoing major problems with the Post’s data, even after the correction.

Thirty-one national disability organizations subsequently called on the Post to correct and clarify the skewed and misleading numbers that remain in the article. Numerous groups have called out a host of additional problems with the story and data. And the Huffington Post and Des Moines Gazette have reported on the article’s flaws.

With the President’s budget director signaling that cuts to Social Security disability benefits may be under consideration, it’s vital that reporters get the facts right. Here’s a round-up of analyses and responses.

School Privatization – What is Happening, and Should We be Concerned?

By Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy

Social media is abuzz over a bill that would largely wipe out federal support for our current public elementary and secondary education system and replace it with vouchers for private schools or home schooling. This legislation, the Choices in Education Act of 2017 (H.R. 610), has two cosponsors (neither of whom are in the committee of jurisdiction) and has not advanced since its introduction in January.

Disability advocates might better target their energy for the President’s full Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request expected in mid-May that is expected to include significant privatization efforts. In March, the President released a “skinny’ budget” that included brief plans to create a $250 million school voucher program and a $1 billion Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I “portability” proposal. Title I currently provides about $15 billion per year to school districts with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families. The President’s portability proposal would allow for these public school dollars to follow students to the public schools of their choice, an option that many reasonably fear is a first step toward privatization. The Administration’s March proposal would ramp up portability to $20 billion over time – about a third of existing federal aid for education.

The bulk of this amount would go to “encouraging districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables Federal, State, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.” Unlike the current system where Districts create school budgets based largely on how much it costs to pay the salaries of school staff and maintain the facility, the proposed funding model would follow each student, no matter where they enroll. This could leave districts to choose among the following private school choice schemes that are already in existence, even if only on a small scale, across states:

School Vouchers or Scholarships. School district funds are allocated to families in the form a voucher to pay partial or full tuition. Twenty five states have such programs.
Tax Credit Scholarships – Taxpayers (individuals and businesses) receive full or partial tax credits for donating to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. Twenty one states provide tax credit scholarships.
Education Savings Accounts – Parents receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts (often via debit card). The funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, tutoring, etc. Five states operate education savings accounts.
Individual Tax Credits and Deductions – Parents receive income tax relief for approved educational expenses (such as tuition, books, tutoring, and transportation). Nine states provide individual tax credits and deductions for education expenses.

Aside from logistical concerns about how the President’s education plan would work, many education advocates are voicing concerns over draining public schools of students and funding. This may be of particular concern to special education students who typically benefit from economies of scale in public schools by sharing resources such as aides, therapists, and counselors. In addition, for special education students who are interested in taking advantage of the private school options in their state, it is important to note that most states do not require that students participating in these programs retain their full rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In fact, a number of states explicitly require that families relinquish their IDEA rights. These and other considerations are critical for families of students with disabilities to consider in deciding whether to support and/or take advantage of these programs that have increased significantly in recent years. Click here for a direct download of The Arc’s School Voucher Parent Decision Checklist.

House and Senate 2016 Budget Resolutions are an Affront to the Disability Community

The Senate passed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Budget Resolution early this morning, following the House’s approval of its own resolution earlier this week. Budget resolutions set the boundaries for federal spending and tax priorities for the fiscal year and the implications are very scary for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families this year.

The House resolution seeks to balance the budget within nine years by cutting $5.5 trillion, while the Senate resolution would balance it in ten years by cutting $5.1 trillion, reflecting differences that could well be resolved in a conference committee. Substantial portions of these cuts come from block granting the Medicaid program (called “flexible state allotments”) and privatizing the Medicare program.   Should a conference agreement pass in both chambers, a process known as budget reconciliation could be triggered to make the proposed changes in the entitlement programs and the tax code alike. This process would likely unravel the social insurance and safety net for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens while simultaneously reducing taxes for those who least need it.

“Bake sales and car washes are simply not an option. Our social insurance and safety net programs require appropriate levels of funding that can only come from the taxes that we pay and from a bipartisan commitment to people with disabilities,” stated Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.   “Most Americans support a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and disability is a bipartisan issue. But the budgets approved in Congress don’t reflect that reality with a ‘cuts only’ approach. Creating even larger wealth inequality in this country through the spending and tax policies promoted in these budgets is an affront to people with I/DD, many of whom are already at the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Our government policies should be lifting people up, not pushing them further down.”

To get involved in protecting the rights of people with I/DD, sign up for The Arc’s Action List.

The Agreement to Re-Open the Federal Government and Raise the Nation’s Debt Ceiling – What Does it Mean to The Arc?

The Arc is relieved that Congress reached a last minute agreement to reopen the federal government and avoid defaulting on our debts.  The government shutdown had already put in jeopardy services and supports that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) rely on, and the narrowly averted default would have resulted in an economic crisis in our country and around the world that would have affected all citizens.   However, despite this temporary victory, we recognize the very difficult challenges that lie ahead for the disability community in the next few months.

What is in the Agreement?  The measure, which passed by comfortable margins in both chambers and was signed shortly afterwards by President Obama, has five key provisions:

  1. reopening of the federal government through January 15 at sequestration levels (the approximately 5% automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for discretionary program);
  2. an extension of the debt limit until February 7 and a provision that requires a proactive vote to disapprove extending the debt limit, as opposed to having regular votes to raise it;
  3. establishment of a House-Senate budget conference committee to come up with long-term spending plans by December 13;
  4. a requirement for income verification for recipients of subsidies under the Affordable Care Act’s newly-established health insurance exchanges; and
  5. back pay for furloughed federal workers.

How does this impact The Arc?  The budget conference committee is a return to a more normal way of doing business in the Congress.  However, it does mean that everything is on the table for consideration, including  proposals harmful to people with I/DD that have surfaced in previous budget proposals.  Some of these have included cuts to entitlement programs that people with disabilities rely on for their health and economic security, such as block granting Medicaid and dramatically cutting spending for the program, turning Medicare into a voucher program and cutting payments to doctors, and reducing the costs of living adjustments for Social Security and other programs through the adoption of the “chained” consumer price index (CPI).  Discretionary programs (which include disability-related programs such as housing, education, and employment) also have been targeted for further cuts.   On the other hand, the budget conference committee leadership already met, with some leaders stressing that they must find common ground.  Learn more about the budget conference at Politico.com.

What Can The Arc Do?  The Arc and our network of advocates must be prepared to respond if the budget conference committee begins to seriously consider “entitlement reform,” which mostly consists of cuts and harmful changes to Medicaid, Social Security and its disability programs, and Medicare, as well as threats to funding for critical discretionary programs.  The Arc will monitor this closely.  Learn more about how to get involved by signing up for our Action E-List.

Reject Piecemeal End to the Government Shutdown and Protect People with Disabilities

Washington, DC – The Arc calls on Congress to reject the piecemeal approach to ending the government shutdown and urges lawmakers to put an end to the Federal Government shutdown immediately for all Americans.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on numerous federal government programs to live, learn, and work in their communities.   We cannot allow Congress to cherry pick which federal programs continue operations based on arbitrary criteria.  We are all in this together,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer, Public Policy, The Arc.  “Congress must adopt appropriations legislation now that does not lock in the harmful, low spending levels from the sequester or defund or delay the Affordable Care Act.”