In this issue of Capitol Connection, learn more about the debt ceiling deal and how it will impact our community. New legislation and updates from the administration are also included. Please use the Autism Society’s Action Center to educate your Members of Congress to support legislation and funding for the Autism community in this critical final month.
Bipartisan Debt Ceiling Agreement
After weeks of negotiations, the White House and Congress have come to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and provide a budget that reduces the deficit. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday evening on a bipartisan vote of 314-117. The Senate is expected to take up the bill and pass it by this weekend. Senate leaders feel confident that they have the votes to pass the bill and have it signed before the June 5th deadline when the Treasury Department states it may run out of funding to pay the nation’s debts.
The good news is that the deal raises the debt ceiling through January 1, 2025, preventing the country from a potentially catastrophic default. It also does NOT make any cuts or work requirements to Medicaid.
Among the bad news is that the deal caps spending for the next two years at FY 2023 (level-funding). For FY 2025, spending will be increased by one percent. However, this is far better than the proposed $130 billion or 22% cut for domestic funding proposed in the House-passed budget bill. The deal includes a provision that applies a 1% cut will be applied across all agency spending if all 12 bills are not passed by January 1st. This level of funding will not keep pace with inflation; therefore we should expect some reduction in services.
The deal also includes other provisions that will affect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs in regard to work requirements. For SNAP, current work requirements will expand to age 54 (from 49) until 2030 (veterans and homeless beneficiaries are exempted), among other changes.
The Autism Society of America developed a debt ceiling toolkit and helped to lead a grassroots call of aging and disability groups last week with Senator Casey (D-PA) with over 500 participants. We thank all those who called, emailed, and met with their Members of Congress to educate them about the impact of the proposed cuts to Medicaid and other programs that support people with Autism. The outcome could have been worse without this pressure from people impacted by the cuts.
Keeping All Students Safe Act
The Keeping All Students Safe Act (H.R. 3470/S. 1750) was reintroduced by Senators Murphy (D-CT) and HELP Committee Chairman Sanders (I-VT) and Representatives Beyer (D-VA) and Scott (D-VA) in May. This bill bans schools that receive government funding from secluding students and limits restraints to situations where it is deemed necessary to protect the students or others from imminent danger. It also bans supine and prone restraint that restricts breathing. The Autism Society supports this bill and sent a letter to the sponsors thanking them for their support. Use our action alert to educate your Members of Congress about the importance of enacting this policy.
Limiting Police Interactions
On May 17th, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced three bills to address the high incidence of violence involving law enforcement and people with disabilities: The Human-Services Emergency Logistics Program (HELP) Act, the Safe Interactions Act (SIA), and the Data on Interactions and Accountability for Law Enforcement with Individuals with Disabilities (DIALED) Act.
The Human-Services Emergency Logistics Program (HELP) Act would divert non-criminal calls from 9-1-1 systems to state and regional 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 systems while providing resources and funding to improve those systems. The bipartisan HELP Act is cosponsored by Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
The Safe Interactions Act would provide grants to non-profit disability organizations to develop training programs that support safe interactions between law enforcement officers and people with Autism and other disabilities. The training would be directed to both new and veteran officers and would include people with disabilities in the training as instructors. It would also establish an advisory council, chaired by a person with a disability, to oversee the training program development and implementation. The Safe Interactions Act is cosponsored by Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). The Autism Society strongly supports the passage of the Safe Interaction Act.
The Data on Interactions and Accountability for Law Enforcement with Individuals with Disabilities (DIALED) Act would improve transparency by developing data collection to get an accurate representation of how people with disabilities are affected by interactions with law enforcement, including use-of-force and fatal interactions. The DIALED Act would amend the Death in Custody Reporting Act and the FBI Use of Force Data Collection Program to ensure that disability status is collected and reported publicly. The legislation would also create a national advisory council on disability status and law enforcement interaction data collection, tasked with developing collection and reporting methodologies and providing recommendations to the Attorney General on best practices. The DIALED Act is cosponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and John Fetterman (D-PA).
Department of Justice Guidance
The Department of Justice released “Guidelines for Emergency Responses to People with Behavioral Health or Other Disabilities”. This guidance was mandated by an executive order in 2022 that required the Department to consult stakeholders on how to advise officials on how to respond and interact with people with disabilities. The guidance advises on different response models such as the co-responder teams and alternative responder models, community-based crisis centers, and the facilitation of post-crisis support services. It stresses proper training and collaboration with different groups such as UCEDDS, DD Councils, P&As, and state Medicaid offices.
HUD Seeks Public Comment
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) seeks public comment on potential changes to its regulation implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for recipients of HUD federal financial assistance. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance from HUD. HUD’s Section 504 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) requests information and comments on recipients’ obligations, including advances in accessible design, the use of websites and other technology, and auxiliary aids and services, such as assistive technologies, that have become available. It also asks about HUD’s communication effectiveness, program accessibility, updating federal accessibility standards, and enforcement. Comments are open until July 24th, 2023, and can be submitted through the Federal Register (select the “Submit a Formal Comment” link at the top of the notice and follow the instructions) or through Regulations.gov e-rulemaking portal (select “Comment” link and follow the instructions).
The next upcoming virtual workshop on June 7th, at 4 pm EDT, is the third in the series the Autism Society is co-sponsoring with the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities focused on empowering self-advocates and their families to create their own community. It is titled “Creating Community, Commenting on the HCBS Access Rule Webinar.” The topic is a new Medicaid rule. An expert from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) will explain in plain language what the proposed rule will do. The Autism Society encourages our affiliates to engage and comment on it because it is so great and will really strengthen the home and community-based services system. This event will take place on June 7th, 4 pm EDT, and can also be shared widely. Please register here. Additionally, reach out to Delancy Allred, Public Policy Coordinator at the Autism Society of America, firstname.lastname@example.org with specific questions related to this event.