In this edition of Capitol Connection, find an update on this year’s Disability Policy Seminar, a guide on how to prepare for the unwinding of the public health emergency (PHE), and updates on federal legislation and administrative actions. Please use our Action Center to urge Members of Congress to support legislation for the Autism community.
Due to unforeseen circumstances at the venue, we are unable to host the Disability Policy Seminar in its usual format this year. The seminar will now have two components:
Monday, April 24th: Virtual Policy Programming and Training
This day of programming will deepen your knowledge about numerous issues affecting people with disabilities and predictions for the new Congress by hearing from national experts. Participants will also receive training about the most effective practices to advocate for these priorities during your meetings with members of Congress.
Thursday, April 27th: “Fly-In Hill Day”
Join us in DC on Capitol Hill to meet with your members of Congress to share priorities for people with disabilities. While we are hoping as many people as possible can join us in person for the fly-in day, virtual meetings can also be made with your members of Congress. Stay tuned for more information about the registration and scheduling process soon!
Seeking State Captains: Please contact Delancy Allred if you are interested in helping us organize Hill Visits for seminar participants in your state. Hill visits can be in-person or through Zoom and State Captains are given all resources to help them through the process.
118th Congress Organizing
Congressional committees for the 118th Congress have been established. The Autism Society created a list of Key Committees with jurisdiction in disability policies in the House and the Senate. Members that are new to the committee for this session are in bold. Please consider reaching out to these new Members to introduce your affiliate as a resource to them. Please let us know if you have any insight into any new members of Congress.
Local Funding Projects Update
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) developed a guide for all local non-profit organizations to help them submit proposals for local funding projects. The new guide for Fiscal Year 2024 makes some improvements from last year’s guide that we shared with you. This guide expands on what basic information is needed to submit an earmark; provides a more detailed earmark timeline; provides direct links to federal agency websites to show potential applicants what is required to officially apply for funds/rules on spending funds; and lists the range of funding that Senators Cardin and Van Hollen received for each earmark type in FY23 as a reference for FY24 requests. The House Appropriations Committee is still organizing and does not yet have any news on earmarks on the site. If interested, please contact each target member of your Congressional Delegation by the end of February or the beginning of March to let them know you are interested in applying for an earmark request. For more information or assistance, contact Kim Musheno at email@example.com.
Administrative & Legislative Updates
Budget and Debt Ceiling
The Autism Society of America joined a letter with 140 other organizations urging the congressional leadership to raise the debt ceiling without any stipulations. Defaulting on the national debt could have dire consequences for people with disabilities and the programs that support them, especially Society Security and Medicaid. Defaulting on the debt could also have broader economic consequences that could indirectly impact people with disabilities. It could lead to higher interest rates and inflation, which could make it harder for people with disabilities to access affordable housing, transportation, and other essential goods and services.
HCBS Rally on the Hill
The Arc of the United States is organizing an in-person rally in Washington, DC next week to rally support for home and community-based services, paid leave, and child care. Organizers will be delivering petitions to Members of Congress. For those in the area, please feel free to join us on Tuesday, February 28th at 11:30 am at Columbus Circle, directly in front of Union Station (look for The Arc’s orange T-shirts).
Senators Sanders (I-VT) and Warren (D-MA), along with Representatives Schakowsky (D-IL) and Van Hoyle (D-OR) introduced the Social Security Expansion Act. The proposed legislation includes a range of provisions designed to improve the program’s benefits, increase revenue, and enhance the long-term financial sustainability of Social Security. In addition, the bill includes several measures to improve Social Security for specific groups. For example, it would provide a caregiver credit to individuals who provide care to family members or loved ones. The bill would also restore student benefits to children of disabled and deceased beneficiaries until they reach age 26. Read the press release and fact sheet for more information.
On February 2nd, Sen. Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) introduced the Caring for All Families Act (S.242). This bill updates the definition of family in the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include a broader range of caregiving relationships that are entitled to FMLA protections. The legislation also guarantees that parents and other family caregivers have the ability to take time off to attend a medical appointment or school function, such as a parent-teacher conference, without the risk of losing their job.
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Steve Daines (R-MT), and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) will re-introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act in the Senate and House of Representatives. This bill phases out the use of subminimum wage certificates for people with disabilities, which many see as outdated and unfair. The bill also authorizes funds to help states transform their employment systems to promote competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities. It also authorizes technical assistance and funding to employment providers to help them transform their business models to continue supporting people with disabilities in work with competitive wages. The Autism Society has been meeting with congressional staff to educate them about the bill and urge their support. Readers can help by contacting their members of Congress through our Action Alert.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Thursday adopted committee rules for the 118th Congress, laying out healthcare issues where they hope to find common ground. Members of both parties agreed on a goal to lower the cost of prescription drugs, address the ongoing mental health care crisis, and address pandemic preparedness. The committee is under new leadership this Congress, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at the helm and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) serving as ranking member. The committee hosted its first hearing last week and focused on the shortage in the healthcare workforce. A few senators questioned the panelists on the shortage of home health aides and direct support workers and how we can better support them.
On February 15th, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a proposed rule to update regulations to remove food from the calculation of In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM). SSA expects that these changes will simplify SSA’s rules, making them less cumbersome to administer and easier for the public to understand and follow. Information on how to provide comments by April 17th, 2023 can be found here.
On February 14th, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced a proposed rule that will make it easier for child welfare agencies to license relatives to foster children whose parents cannot care for them. This rule addresses one of the significant challenges facing grandparents and other relative caregivers and fulfills a key federal commitment made in the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers. Public comments are due by April 17th, 2023.
Autism Society PHE Unwinding Guide
The Biden Administration announced that the Public Health Emergency (PHE) that was declared due to the Covid-19 pandemic will end on May 11th. This will bring about many changes such as Medicaid qualification status, and vaccine, testing, and treatment coverage. It will also end Medicaid flexibilities that states were able to request due to the pandemic. To help prepare for these changes, the Autism Society developed an “End of Public Health Emergency Guide“. In this guide, readers will find details on Medicaid unwinding and state progress and plans. Key information on how to advocate for state PHE waivers is also included.
New Resources to Support the Healthy Relationships
The Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed lessons and toolkits on healthy relationships and sexual health for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The first resources are lessons on how to have healthy online relationships with a focus on youth aged 10-21. The second resource is a toolkit for parents and caregivers on how to have discussions on adolescence, sexual health, and online safety.
The Center on Youth Voice, Youth Choice (CYVYC), a national research, training, and resource center that promotes the use of alternatives to guardianship for youth with intellectual or developmental disabilities, currently provides technical assistance and support to eight states including Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin through a grant from the Administration for Community Living (ACL). The centers are expanding their work and seeking three more states for whom they will provide support. Applications are available online and due by 8:00 pm ET on February 24th. If you have any questions about the application process or need any accommodations, please contact Morgan Whitlatch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-596-6116. The recorded informational session webinar is available for future viewing on the CYVYC website.