Monthly Legislative Wrap Up Newsletter
On Behalf of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Welcome to the Network for Jewish Human Service Agencies' Monthly Legislative Wrap Up Newsletter. Congress returned on September 6 after an almost 6 week Recess. With all eyes on the upcoming Election on November 8, Congress is set to recess on September 30, the last day they have to pass a budget deal before the next fiscal year starts on October 1. Below we will detail some recent legislative and agency developments, as well as what Congress is hoping to address before returning to the campaign trail.

Is there a topic you would like us to touch on? A question about public policy you would like us to answer? We would love to hear from you! Please do not hesitate to email our Director of Government Affairs,  Liz Leibowitz , with questions, comments, or ideas. 
Urge Congressional Conferees to Support Nonprofit Energy Efficiency
Earlier this week, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) sent out an action alert related to the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Pilot Program, a provision included in the Senate-passed North American Energy and Infrastructure Act of 2016 (S.2012). As we alerted you to earlier this year, this program would help nonprofit organizations acquire energy-efficient products, equipment, or systems to improve their energy efficiencies. Under the proposal, $50 million would be authorized for Fiscal Years 2017-2021, and nonprofits would be able to apply for grants up to $200,000. 

However, the House also passed its own energy bill earlier in the year, which did not include this provision. As such, the House and Senate have named conferees that are now meeting to negotiate a final compromise bill. It is extremely important that House and Senate conferees hear from agencies supporting this provision. To learn more about the conferees and actions you can take, please click here.
Support People with Disabilities by Urging a No Vote on H.R.3765 
On September 9, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) came out against the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R.3765), sponsored by Representative Ted Poe (R-TX). The bill would require that people with disabilities, upon discovering a physical violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at a public accommodation, write the aforementioned building's owner and then wait up to 120 days (or four months) for the owner to fix the violation(s). Only then can a person with a disability exercise their legal rights under the ADA. The waiting period outlined in this bill would be particularly problematic for access to public accommodations; imagine if an individual with a disability was forced to wait those four months to be able to get into essential places such as laundromats, doctors' offices, or supermarkets. Furthermore, this bill would make filing a complaint against a public accommodation punishable by fines if the complaint did not meet certain criteria. 

The ADA, passed into law in 1990, provides people with disabilities basic civil rights, including the right to have access to places of public accommodation. The ADA Education and Reform Act weakens the ADA and enables businesses that have not come into compliance in the 26 years since the law's passage to maintain their accessibility barriers. We believe that civil rights for people with disabilities should be growing, not weakening. H.R.3765 passed the House Judiciary Committee on a largely party line vote (Republicans in favor, Democrats opposed) of 15-6 on July 7. A vote of the full House on this legislation is expected later this month. We encourage you to contact your representative(s) and urge them to vote against this bill. 
Carl D. Perkins Reauthorization Bill Passes the House  
On September 13, the House of Representatives voted 405-5 to approve the "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act" (H.R. 5587), legislation that would reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 through fiscal year (FY) 2022. The final bill approved by the House includes several policy changes supported by our network, including provisions to align post secondary outcome measures with performance indicators under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and to strengthen alignment between WIOA and Perkins state planning efforts. The legislation has now been sent to the Senate for their consideration. 
Update: Congressional Budget 
By law, Congress is required to complete the discretionary spending bills for the next fiscal year (FY) 2017 before the end of the current fiscal year. The current fiscal year budget expires on September 30. At this time, Congress has failed to complete a single spending bill, and it is not expected to finish the spending bills before the deadline. This has been a recurring dilemma in recent years.

Facing the possibility of a government shutdown, the Senate has taken lead in drafting a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would provide stop-gap funding to keep the Federal government operating and extend the period of time in which Congress must complete the FY 2017 spending bills. The expected extension would fund the government through December 9, although the specifics of the CR have not yet materialized.

While a CR would avoid a government shutdown, during this interim period, Federal agencies would continue to operate under the authority provided by Congress through the FY 2016 appropriations, thus limiting their ability to respond to current and expected needs and priorities that would otherwise be dealt with in the FY 2017 bills.

Passage of a CR would also necessitate that Congress returns after the election in November for a lame-duck session in order to complete their work on the FY 2017 spending bills. The likely scenario is that they would bundle the spending bills into a single measure known as an "omnibus bill." This has been a common practice in this situation. During the lame-duck session, House and Senate leadership and appropriators would need to come to agreement on all of the differences between competing versions of the spending bills that came out of the respective appropriations committees. The extended period would also necessitate our continued advocacy in support of inclusion of our priorities within the final spending package. We will provide updates on this evolving situation as it progresses. 
DOL Announces Recipients of ApprenticeshipUSA Contracts
On September 21, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the recipients of $20.4 million in contracts to expand intermediary capacity and improve equity in registered apprenticeship. The intermediary contracts focused on projects serving either a single industry or multiple industries. The funding for these contracts comes from a Congressional investment of $90 million in FY 2016 appropriations and is part of DOL's overall ApprenticeshipUSA Initiative. Under Intermediary Contracts, recipients will work to expand apprenticeship programs in healthcare, construction, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, energy, and technology sectors through dissemination of tools and strategies to help employers start and grow their apprenticeship programs.
Update: Affordable Housing Bill Recently Signed Into Law 
Since our last update, Congress passed a bill, which President Obama signed into law on July 29, to which we want to bring your attention. The bill, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act (HOTMA), provides the first comprehensive update to our nation's low-income housing program in nearly 20 years and received wide spread support from a range of housing organizations.

The bill will make a number of changes to housing programs, such as:
  • Reform how resident incomes are calculated in the public housing, housing choice voucher, and project-based rental assistance programs, increasing the benefits available to families that have a head of household with a disability or who is elderly;
  • Strengthen work incentives by delaying rent increases for residents who start employment and/or increase their earnings; 
  • Allow state and local housing agencies to increase usage of "project-based" housing vouchers in higher-opportunity areas that have lower crime and poverty and higher-achieving schools;
  • Help address homelessness by allowing local housing agencies to use more project-based vouchers for veterans, older adults, and the homeless; and
  • Improve public housing facilities and quality of life for residents by permitting use of certain public housing funds for critical renovation needs. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will now review the legislation and begin the formal rulemaking process. We will continue to monitor the implementation of HOTMA and provide updates.