Federal

NJACP monitors and responds to issues affecting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the federal level.

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Federal Updates

What Will the Senate Replace the ACA With?

There are a great many unknowns, including which version of the health care reform bill will be considered. To date, there have been at least four possibilities floated – the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), a straight repeal called the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA), or an updated BCRA that includes the “Cruz amendment” that would allow insurers to sell scaled-down plans lacking essential health benefits. ANCOR has developed a quick reference guide comparing the three main proposals.

Read the complete article and more about healthcare reform here, including:

  • Congressman MacArthur: No Regrets on Role of Moving Healthcare Bill Forward
  • CBO Score/Analysis Shows Medicaid spending to Fall by 35% Over 20 Years Under Healthcare Bill
  • NYT Piece Highlights Critical Role of Medicaid for Millions of Americans with Disabilities
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) seeks public input on reducing the regulatory burdens of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) 
  • TRUMP’s MEDICAID OVERHAUL IS FACING TOUGH TEST IN TRUMP COUNTRY

 

DOL Publishes List of Upcoming Regulatory Actions

 On July 20, the semi-annual regulatory agenda was published by federal agencies. The agenda lists regulatory actions in the pipeline, providing insight into the agencies’ priorities and activities. The Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) agenda lists 38 short term goals, including plans to replace last year’s Overtime Exemption rule. When the RFI is published to allow for public comment on changes to be made to the Overtime Exemption rule, NJACP’s national affiliate, ANCOR, encourages members to comment. NJACP commented in the past given the potential impact on providers and will alert members to what is contained in the most recently published RFI when it is available.

House Releases 2018 Budget Plan with Deep Entitlement Cuts

 On July 18, the House Budget Committee unveiled its FY2018 Budget, featuring deep cuts to entitlement programs including Medicaid and Medicare. It assumes the passage of health care reform by congress, instituting per capita caps or block grants in Medicaid. The budget plan does not include a detailed breakdown on how specific programs within Medicaid would be impacted, there would be $4.4 trillion cut over ten years from Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, and other income and education assistance programs. Overall, it would cut approximately $1.5 trillion from Medicaid programs, $487 billion from Medicare, and $4 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

The budget plan provides a general overview of parameters that House committees then work to determine the details of appropriations. On July 12, the House Appropriations Committee released its draft fiscal year 2018 funding bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The bill overall reduces funding in these areas by $5 billion under the funding level enacted for 2017. It cuts Department of Labor funding by a net of $1.3 billion, including cuts to the Employment Training Administration ($1.5 billion decrease) and Job Corps ($16 million decrease). The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee took up a bill on HUD and USDA programs, which included cuts to housing assistance programs that the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimated would result in the loss of 140,000 housing vouchers.

The budget plan has not been enacted as a budget, and in fact, Congress has not been able to pass a budget that the President will sign into law for the past seven years, leaving funding to be appropriated through a long series of continuing resolutions, short term funding bills to keep the government running. A 2017 budget has not been passed to date, as it is currently tied up with the health care reform bill. Moving ahead to FY 2018, it is unclear whether this budget plan will come to fruition, or whether it will be more of the same continuing resolutions that DC has become accustomed to. Whether or not this plan results in a formal budget, it is important because it sets forth the House’s priorities regarding budget policy.

NJACP will keep members informed as it works closely with ANCOR to determine the appropriate advocacy efforts.

SSA Fraud Alert

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, is warning citizens about a new Social Security Administration (SSA) employee impersonation scheme.  SSA and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) are receiving reports from citizens across the country about phone calls from an individual posing as an SSA employee.  The caller attempts to acquire personally identifiable information from victims to then edit the victims’ direct deposit, address, and telephone information with SSA.

Acting Inspector General Stone warns citizens to be cautious, and to avoid providing information such as your SSN or bank account numbers to unknown persons over the phone or internet unless you are certain of who is receiving it.  “You must be very confident that the source is the correct business party, and your information will be secure after you release it,” Stone said.

If a person has questions about any communication—email, letter, text or phone call—that claims to be from SSA or the OIG, please contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to verify its legitimacy.  (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)

Please share this information as widely as possible and please post this on your websites and social media sites.

DOL Moves Towards Scaling Back Overtime Rule

The Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Overtime Exemption Rule has been stalled through litigation since just prior to when it was to go into effect last December. With the rule out of play but still on the books, the DOL on June 27th sent a formal Request for Information (RFI) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the first step towards publishing the RFI in the Federal Register and opening the rule up to the public for comments.

DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta has signaled that he believes the Obama-era rule that changed the threshold under which employees must be paid overtime was too high, and a more appropriate threshold would be approximately $33,000/yr, rather than the $47,476/yr it was increased to. Once the RFI is published, NJACP will alert members to submit comments.

“Out of Reach” 2017 Housing Report Now Available

On June 8, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released “Out of Reach 2017: The High Cost of Housing.” The report reveals that on average a full-time worker in the U.S. must earn $21.21 per hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment and $17.14 to afford a one-bedroom apartment. The report indicates that housing costs are “out of reach” for both for the average renter and for millions of low-wage workers, seniors and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes, and other low-income households. The average hourly wage of renters in the U.S. is $16.38, $4.83 lower than the two-bedroom Housing Wage and nearly $1 lower than for the one-bedroom Housing Wage.

In no state, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal level, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit. A worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 117 hours per week for 52 weeks of the year (or nearly 3 full-time jobs) to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home and 94.5 hours per week (2.4 full time jobs) to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment.

The disparity between the Housing Wage needed to afford a rental home and workers’ wages results in a shortage of 7.4 million rental homes nationwide that are affordable and available to extremely low income households, underscoring the need for greater investments in affordable housing solutions.

House Introduces IDEA Full Funding Act

On June 15, Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV), Timothy Walz (D-MN), David Reichert (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and John Katko (R-NY) introduced the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Full Funding Act (H.R. 2902). The Bill would increasing spending over the next ten years, bringing the federal share of funding for special education up to forty percent, in line with the amount committed in 1975 when the law was originally enacted. This would be a significant increase from the current federal share which is under sixteen percent. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

 

DOL Announces the Return of Opinion Letters

 On June 27, the Department of Labor sent out a notice saying that it will reinstate the issuance of opinion letters. The letters will be used by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) as one of its methods for providing guidance to covered employers and employees. Letters that contained the official, written opinion by WHD on how a particular law applied in specific circumstances presented by an employer or other entity were issued until 2010, when the DOL made the decision to cease issuing individual guidance letters in favor of general guidance.

“Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes,” said Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs.”

The division has established a webpage where the public can see if existing agency guidance already addresses their questions or submit a request for an opinion letter. The webpage explains what to include in the request, where to submit the request, and where to review existing guidance. The division will exercise discretion in determining which requests for opinion letters will be responded to, and the appropriate form of guidance to be issued.

Social Security for Future Generations Act Introduced in House

On June 9, Representative Al Lawson Jr. (D-FL) introduced the “Social Security for Future Generations Act” (H.R. 2855). The bill would extend Social Security student benefits to age 22, enhance Social Security benefits for surviving spouses, provide annual cost of living increases in SSI benefits, apply Social Security payroll tax on wages over $250,000, and increase the Social Security special minimum benefit for long-term low-wage workers. The bill currently has seventeen cosponsors.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking recommendations and input from the public on how to create a more flexible, streamlined approach to the regulatory structure of the individual and small group markets. The goal is to identify and eliminate or change regulations that are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; impose costs that exceed benefits; or create inconsistencies that otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies.

 

ABLE Act Update

 The legislation to allow ABLE Act accounts, accounts that can assist individuals with disabilities and their families save for their disability expenses while keeping benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid, was approved in New Jersey (each state must pass enabling legislation to comply with the federal statute). However, the regulatory structure to implement the accounts has not yet been completed. Regulations that were with the Department of Treasury are now with the Department of Human Services for completion. Some are hopeful the process will be finalized before the end of the calendar year, however, the DHS has not announced a timeframe. NJACP continues to monitor developments and will inform members of any updates.

DOL Seeks Feedback on Rescinding Persuader Rule

 On June 12, the Department of Labor (DOL) filed a notice of proposed rulemaking (RIN 1245-AA07) that asks for public comment on whether the Department should rescind the “persuader” rule, a rule issued last year that requires employers to report on arrangements they have with labor-management consultants to develop communications and otherwise influence employees during union organizing campaigns. The rule requires disclosures for any actions, conduct, or communications that could impact an employee’s decision regarding collective bargaining rights, whether the actions are direct or indirect. Prior to this rule, such disclosure was only required if the outside consultants made direct contact. Critics of the rule were concerned that it would have a “chilling effect” on free speech and could prevent employers from seeking legal counsel for labor issues.

The DOL said in its notice that it is considering rescinding the rule to allow for additional engagement in statutory analysis and give greater consideration to whether a revised interpretation will have a chilling effect on client-attorney communications.  Comments on the proposed rule are due August 11, 2017. As reported by ANCOR.

Tennessee Closes Institution

 The final two people living at Greene Valley Developmental Center transitioned to their new homes last week, effectively closing the state institution after more than 50 years of operation, state officials announced. “People who lived at Greene Valley are now living rewarding lives in their communities,” Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Debra K. Payne said in a news release. “We are closing an important chapter in the history of supporting people with disabilities in Tennessee. It’s important to celebrate the huge advancements we’ve made, while remembering the important role Greene Valley played for 56 years.”

Over the past two years, DIDD has transitioned 84 people into community placements. Private providers in East Tennessee constructed 15 four-person homes for people living at Greene Valley whose families wished for them to transition to an intermediate care facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “I want to take this opportunity to thank all Greene Valley employees for the excellent care they have provided to people with disabilities for more than 50 years,” Payne said. “Also, the entire Greene County community has supported the facility and the people who live there, and we are extremely grateful for their continued partnership as we support people with intellectual disabilities in the community.”

Closure of Greene Valley Developmental Center was the final provision of an agreement allowing DIDD to resolve a federal lawsuit. The suit was brought by People First of Tennessee and the U.S. Department of Justice in 1995, over conditions at Clover Bottom Developmental Center, Greene Valley and Nat T. Winston Developmental Center. Nat T. Winston shut its doors in 1998. Clover Bottom was closed in late 2015. In January 2016, a federal judge issued an order vacating injunctive relief and partially dismissing the long-standing lawsuit following an exit plan entered by the U.S. district court in January 2015. To read more, click here.

CCD Fact Sheet on Housing Resources

On August 2, 2016, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ (CCD’s) Housing task force released an fact sheet on the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. The fact sheet outlines why the NHTF and AFFH are vital for people with disabilities, and how state and local disability advocates can get involved in these new initiatives. Click here for the fact sheet.

ADA Amended Regulations Strengthen Disability Rights

On August 11, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued final rule RIN 1190-AA59 which amends current regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to incorporate statutory changes to the law that went into effect on January 1, 2009. Congress enacted the ADA Amendments Act in 2008 to restore the understanding that the definition of “disability” should be broadly construed and applied without extensive analysis. In the final rule, the DOJ adds new sections to Title II and Title III ADA regulations to clarify the proper meaning and interpretation of the definition of “disability” and to make other related changes required by the ADA Amendments Act. NJACP will inform members as additional info and analysis become available.

TAC Releases Section 8 Resource Guide

The Technical Assistive Collaborative (TAC), an organization that focuses on affordable housing solutions for vulnerable populations, has released “Section 8 Made Simple – Special Edition: Using the Housing Choice Voucher Program to End Chronic Homelessness“. This guide offers step-by-step guidance on finding and securing housing through the Housing Choice Voucher program, with a special focus on helping those who are experiencing chronic homelessness. Though the guide is not disability-focused, it contains valuable information for anyone interested in learning more about how the voucher program works.

 Disability.gov Updates Website

Disability.gov, which is designed to be a one-stop shop for government disability resources, sent the following notice of website updates on July 12, 2016:

You Asked. We Acted. — Disability.gov’s New “Quick Links”

Visitors to Disability.gov have asked for a series of “quick links” to use as a way to find the information they need faster. Many have also requested a list of toll-free numbers they can call to learn about disability-related programs and services in their own communities. In response to your requests, we have developed a new webpage of “quick links” and phone numbers so you can easily access the information and resources Disability.gov’s visitors are most often seeking. Please share this email with family members, friends and colleagues you believe may benefit from these important resources.  For more information visit: https://www.disability.gov/disability-govs-quick-links

State Minimum Wage Chart

Attached is a chart detailing each state’s minimum wage and, if adjusted annually, the date of the adjustment. New Jersey’s minimum wage is 8.38 and is adjusted each year in January depending on the rate of inflation each year. If of interest, please click here.

CMS Issues Guidance on Strengthening and Stabilizing Medicaid Home Care Workforce

On August 3, 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an informational bulletin that highlights steps available to states, providers, and others to strengthen the home care workforce, defined in the document as encompassing individuals furnishing home and community based services (HCBS). The document is split into subsections, with recommendations under each. The subsections are:

  • Workforce Identity
  • Provider Qualifications and Basic Training
  • Wage Analyses
  • Related Prior Guidance

Notably, in the “Wage Analyses” section, the guidance says, “When developing payment rates for home care services, states should also consider business costs incurred by a provider – whether a home care agency or an individually employed worker – associated with the recruitment, skills training, and retention of qualified workers.” This is an important acknowledgement that states should ensure that rates will be sufficient to provide adequate compensation for workers. There is also a direct reference to the Department of Labor’s Home Care rule, with the guidance noting that states should take into account geographic differences in wages within a state and keep in mind any joint-employer obligations the state may have.

DOL Issues Guidance Regarding Implementation and Enforcement of WIOA Including 14c Certificates

On July 27, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Administrator Dr. David Weil issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2016-2 and released Fact Sheet #39H regarding implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Wage and Hour Division enforcement of WIOA limitations on payment of subminimum wages under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), effective July 22, 2016.

In conjunction with this guidance, Branch Chief Helen Applewhaite wrote a letter to current section 14(c) certificate holders about the new limitations mandated by WIOA. Under WIOA: 

  • Employers may not continue to pay a subminimum wage to persons with disabilities under section 14(c) of the FLSA unless each worker, regardless of their age, has been provided with career counseling and information about self-advocacy, self-determination and peer mentoring training opportunities in their local area at specified intervals. 
  • Employers are prohibited from hiring workers who are age 24 or younger unless the employer obtains, verifies, and maintains copies of documents proving that these workers have completed specific requirements (transition services, vocational rehabilitation and career counseling) designed to improve their access to competitive integrated employment.

DOL maintains a website dedicated to housing information regarding employment for workers with disabilities, which is available here.