The Arc Responds to House Budget Committee Passage of FY 2019 
“Budget for a Brighter American Future”

Washington, DC, June 22, 2018 – This week, the House Budget Committee passed House Budget Committee Chairman Steve Womack’s 2019 Budget Resolution. 

Chairman Womack’s 2019 Budget Resolution would target health care programs including Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and substitute in a plan for the ACA that would cause 23 million Americans to lose health insurance by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  It also imposes severe reductions on non-defense discretionary spending, which funds programs like education, training, and employment that make community living possible for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

 “The Arc strongly opposes the FY 2019 Budget for a Brighter American Future.  Like last year’s House Budget, this budget would have people with intellectual and developmental disabilities bear the brunt of the nation’s deficit reduction efforts. The cuts would slash trillions over a decade from essential programs serving people with disabilities. This budget not only widens economic inequality, it fails to address critical issues such as the growing need for long term supports and services resulting from our aging population. 

“We can read between the lines and see that the real purpose of this budget is to lay the foundation to cut Medicaid and other programs by the end of the year.  The Arc’s network of advocates united to block these cuts last year and we are ready to do so again if this budget resolution advances to the House floor and is introduced in the Senate,” 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 Responds to House Passage of the Farm Bill

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed 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).

“We are extremely disappointed that the Farm Bill passed in its current form. If enacted as is, this version of the bill would cut off basic food assistance for children, adults, and seniors who are struggling to put food on the table. It is disturbing most Members of the House buy in to the notion 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 the Senate to work together on a bipartisan approach to Farm Bill reauthorization that protects and preserves SNAP, rejecting the proposed cuts in the House version of the bill,” 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 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.

Why a Federal Balanced Budget Amendment is Bad for People with Disabilities

Almost everyone agrees that they should have balanced budgets, that is, that they should not spend more money than they take in. It makes perfect sense for individuals, so why not for our federal government?

Actually, there are several reasons why requiring a balanced budget for the federal government would be a very bad idea. For starters, let’s consider the assumption about individuals having balanced budgets.  If this were really the case, we would not be able to get home mortgages, student loans, or finance the purchase of a car. We would not be able to borrow money for such sound investments in our future.  

Requiring a balanced budget makes no more sense for the federal government than it does for individuals. The federal government needs the flexibility to do things like respond to natural disasters, public health epidemics, military threats, demographic changes, and economic downturns, among other things. What appears to be a commonsense approach is actually very bad public policy.

What is a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA)?

Balanced Budget ScaleA balanced budget amendment is a proposed federal constitutional rule requiring that the government not spend more than its income in a given year. Most state constitutions have balanced-budget provisions and most of these make an exception for times of war or national emergency, or allow the legislature to suspend the rule by a supermajority vote. The U.S. Constitution does not require a balanced budget. Some members of Congress are looking to change that by passing legislation to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Why is a BBA Harmful?

It will result in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and other large programs. Programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security are a large part of the federal budget. They are projected to grow in the next several years primarily due to the aging of the population. Since these are very popular and critical programs, Congress has been unable to make direct cuts to them and some Members are now looking to try less direct methods, including a BBA. 

Social Security and Medicare are particularly vulnerable to cuts because a BBA prohibits spending from exceeding revenues collected in that year. These programs operate with trust funds that collect dedicated payroll taxes designated for specific programs which are partially paid out in future years to meet projected population needs. For example, in years when Social Security collects more than it pays in benefits and other expenses (which it has done every year since 1984), the Treasury invests the surplus in interest-bearing Treasury bonds and other Treasury securities. These bonds can be redeemed whenever needed to pay benefits. The trust fund balances allow benefits to be paid when the Social Security program’s current income is insufficient by itself. Under a BBA, the $2.9 trillion in Treasury securities held in the Social Security Trust Fund would not be available to help pay benefits to the baby boomers for retirement or disability since almost all of it was collected in prior years.  

It would harm the economy.  A BBA would likely cause significant harm to the economy, making recessions both deeper and longer. In an economic slowdown, revenues (mostly taxes) fall while spending for unemployment and other benefits increases. A BBA would force policymakers to cut federal programs, raise taxes, or both when the economy is weak or already in recession, the exact opposite of what good economic policy would advise, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It is extremely hard to change.  An amendment to the Constitution is a dramatic step that takes a lot of time to enact. Unlike typical legislation, once a constitutional amendment has passed, it is extremely difficult to undo. 

What is Happening in Congress?

There are two BBA bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) – H.J. Res 1 and H.J. Res 2 – that Congress may vote on. While both versions are very harmful, H. J. Res 1 is the most drastic one since it essentially prohibits tax increases (by requiring a three-fifths vote in the House and the Senate) and limits spending to 20 percent of the economy (gross domestic product(GDP)). The House may vote on one of these bills as soon as next week.

Key Points for Advocates 

People with disabilities, their families, and advocates can:

  • Speak concretely about how their lives will be upended if the dramatic spending cuts forced by a BBA were to happen. What would happen if Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs were severely cut?
  • Call out the contrast – Question how Members of Congress can call for such drastic action to reduce deficits when they recently voted to add over $1 trillion over 10 years to the nation’s deficits in the tax law enacted on December 20, 2017.  See House votes here and Senate votes here.
  • Share what many leading economists believe – a BBA to the U.S. Constitution is very unsound economic policy. 

For more information, see:

The Arc Responds to House of Representatives Passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – Services and Supports for People with Disabilities at Risk

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to House passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

“Once again the House of Representatives has taken a dangerous step towards cutting the services and supports that people with disabilities rely on to be a part of their community. This year we’ve endured ongoing Congressional attacks on critical programs for people with disabilities. And now, thanks to the enormous revenue losses created by this bill, we will prepare to protect critical programs like Medicaid which will likely be on the chopping block in 2018.

“This version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is the result of a conference between the Senate and House of Representatives, was only released publicly on Friday evening. With the Senate rushing to vote on this bill less than 24 hours after the House passage, it seems that Congress is trying to hide something from the American public.

“This bill is the latest attack from Congress on the health and wellbeing of their constituents with disabilities.  Now we turn to the Senate, our last line of defense. We implore Senators to do the right thing and oppose this bill. We continue to encourage disability advocates across the country to reach out to their Senators to voice their concern about this bill, but emphasize that time is of the essence.  The disability community has fought against threats to vital programs and won several times this year, and we are not backing down when it comes to irresponsible tax policy like this,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, ignores concerns that constituents with disabilities across the country have been raising to their Members of Congress for weeks. The Arc’s longstanding position on tax policy is that it should raise sufficient revenues to finance essential programs that help people with disabilities to live and work in the community. The Arc also supports tax policy that is fair and reduces income inequality as people with disabilities are twice as likely to experience poverty. This legislation fails to meet either standard.

Additionally, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate will result in 13 million fewer Americans with health coverage, including those with disabilities, and will increase premiums for people buying insurance on the health insurance exchange.

About 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 more than 665 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.

Why the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is Bad for People with Disabilities

Legislative Timeline

House of Representatives

  • Nov. 16: House passed its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Senate

  • Week of Nov. 27: Senate plans to vote on its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
  • 51 votes are needed to pass the legislation

Background

The Arc’s longstanding position on tax policy is that it should raise sufficient revenues to finance essential programs that help people with disabilities to live and work in the community. The Arc also supports tax policy that is fair and reduces income inequality; people with disabilities are twice as likely to experience poverty.

Unfortunately, both the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1, Senate Version) fail to meet either standard. Both bills would dramatically reduce revenue that the federal government uses to pay for critical programs. As the tax revenue decreases it will likely build pressure to cut Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, and other critical programs for people with disabilities to make up for lost revenue.

Why is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Harmful?

Congressional BudgetThe House and Senate bills reduce federal revenue by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Members of Congress have acknowledged that passing these tax cuts will make it easier to justify spending cuts down the road. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also notes that automatic spending cuts may be triggered if Congress does not act to prevent them. These automatic cuts could mean a $25 billion dollar cut to Medicare in 2018. Automatic spending cuts could also slash funds that go to states to operate critical programs such as the Vocational Rehabilitation state grant program and the Social Services Block Grant.

How Do the House and Senate Bills Compare?

The Arc opposes both the House and Senate bills. The chart below is meant to explain the differences between the two bills.

In House Bill In Senate Bill
Repeal of Individual Mandate for health insurance coverage. CBO estimates 13+ million fewer people with health insurance andpremium hikes of 10% in the insurance marketplace. The individual mandate helps ensure that enough healthy people purchase health insurance to keep insurance affordable. x
Repeal of the medical expense deduction. Nearly 9 million filers claim this deduction for medical care expenses that exceed 10% of an individual’s or family’s adjusted gross income. It offsets some of the high out of pocket medical expenses that some people with disabilities incur, such as high cost prescription drugs, long term  physical and occupational therapies, wheelchairs, prosthetics, and long term supports and services. x
Repeal of the Disabled Access Credit (DATC). The DATC assists small businesses in meeting obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It allows small businesses (with < 31 employees and gross receipts < $1 million a year) to claim a tax credit. The credit provides 50% of eligible expenditures between $250 and $10,000 for a maximum of $5,000. x
Repeal of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). WOTC is available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups, including people with disabilities. The WOTC for people with disabilities provides a credit for up to 40% of the first $6,000 in wages, for a maximum of $2,400 for SSI beneficiaries but up to $9,600 for certain disabled veterans. x
Reduce affordable housing production under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. LIHTC funds the creation of affordable housing across the country. Both the House and Senate bills would make changes to the LIHTC program that would reduce the number of affordable housing units produced. Changes proposed by the Senate bill are estimated to reduce units produced by roughly 300,000 over the next 10 years. The House bill has proposed even more dramatic changes, estimated to reduce units produced by nearly 1 million over the next 10 years. x x
Reducing incentives for charitable deductions. Raising the standard deduction could reduce the number of taxpayers who itemize deductions – including charitable donations – from the current 30% to 5%. Combined with a decrease in the top marginal tax rate, the disincentive to itemize would reduce charitable giving by $4.9 billion to $13.1 billion annually. Many of the providers of services to people with disabilities are non profits that rely on charitable giving. x x
Repeal or limit Orphan Drugs Credit. Businesses can receive this credit for clinical testing expenses for certain drugs for rare diseases or conditions. It is estimated that if the orphan drug credit were repealed one-third fewer drugs addressing rare diseases would be developed in the future. x
Repeal
x
Limit
Creation of an inadequate paid leave tax credit. The Senate bill would create a two-year employer tax credit for paid family and medical leave expenses, modeled after the Strong Families Act. As structured, this tax credit is likely to primarily subsidize companies that already offer paid leave or that would have chosen to offer new or expanded paid leave benefits without a tax credit. This means that, in addition to losing revenue, the proposal would do little to reduce current gaps in access to paid leave that particularly impact workers with disabilities and their families. x