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Washington DC Update 3/23/22
Spring has Sprung! The Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing. For the next 4 weeks, trees along the tidal basin and throughout the city will be filled with pink blossoms; their petals carried all over the District. The planting of cherry trees in Washington DC originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. It is a powerful image to picture DC covered in blossoms and petals of pink symbolizing friendship as we face all of the challenges in our country and abroad.

Appropriations for FY 2023: The process for determining Federal government spending for FY 2023 has begun and is likely to accelerate once President Biden unveils his FY 2023 budget request, which is expected to be rolled out sometime between March 28 and April 4.

Additional COVID-19 funding: Although removed from the Omnibus Bill, lawmakers and the President alike are looking for additional funds. The White House has warned that sufficient funds do not exist for additional vaccination efforts. Without additional funding, the free COVID-19 treatments may soon carry a hefty price tag (as much as $2000 a course) and therefore become inaccessible to many Americans, further exacerbating inequities.

Public Health Emergency gets set to unwind and Medicaid redeterminations loom: Only a little more than half of states have figured out how they’re going to prioritize processing Medicaid renewals when the continuous coverage requirement is lifted, according to the latest annual survey of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program officials. CMS has recommended that states take 14 months to complete redetermination and process no more than one-ninth of their caseload each month to prevent eligible people from losing their health insurance because of procedural errors.
From the Administration
HHS in JAMA Pediatrics on Child Mental Health Rates
A new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) study published in the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA Pediatrics  reports significant increases in the number of children diagnosed with mental health conditions. The study, conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), finds that between 2016 and 2020, the number of children ages 3-17 years diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29 percent and those with depression by 27 percent. The findings also suggest concerning changes in child and family well-being after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Happy Birthday ACA: March 23, 2022 - 12 years old!
  • HHS Fact Sheet celebrating the ACA!
  • Statements by Secretary Becerra and HHS leaders about the affect of the ACA.

Guidance on Web Accessibility and the ADA
This guidance describes how state and local governments and businesses open to the public can make sure that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Disability Scoop article providing history and summarizing guidance.

FCC: Pilot Sites Selected for Connected Care Pilots
The Connected Care Pilot Program will provide up to $100 million from the Universal Service Fund (USF) over a three-year period to selected applicants to support the provision of connected care services. The Commission adopted final rules for the Connected Care Pilot Program on April 2, 2020 (see FCC 20-44). The Pilot Program will provide funding for selected pilot projects to cover 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services necessary to provide connected care services to the intended patient population. The Pilot Program will not fund end-user devices or medical equipment. More information and a link to funded Pilots in your state can be found HERE.

Related FCC Forum That May Be of Interest
Monday, March 28 | 1:00 - 3:45 pm ET
The Federal Communications Committee's (FCC’s) Media Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will co-host this second accessibility-related Forum focused on issues surrounding audio description.

Consumers currently watch a large volume of video programming online, but the availability of audio description online is inconsistent, even for video programming for which an audio description track already exists. The Video Programming Accessibility Forum – Online Audio Description will explore the state of audio description availability for online video programming, including current best practices and technical issues to overcome. The Forum also will explore ways to enhance accessibility, such as voluntary actions to promote online audio description.
The Forum will include two panels that will feature speakers such as television, cable, and online video programming distributors, as well as consumer advocates. Please see the Public Notice for the full agenda.

Strategic Plan: Ability One Commission
The U.S. AbilityOne Commission Draft FY 2022-2026 Strategic Plan (PDF) provides the roadmap for accomplishing the Commission’s priorities over the next five years. The draft strategic plan will be published in the Federal Register and will be open for a 30-day public comment and review period. This draft strategic plan will enable the Commission to gauge the success of the AbilityOne Program in serving people who are blind or have other significant disabilities.

The AbilityOne Program uses the purchasing power of the federal government to buy products and services from participating community-based nonprofit agencies nationwide, dedicated to training and employing individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities. As the independent Federal agency that administers the AbilityOne Program, the Commission’s mission is to provide employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the manufacture and delivery of products and services to the Federal Government.

U.S. Department of Education: Real Pay for Real Jobs
The U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) released the notice inviting applications for the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) demonstration project, aimed at increasing access for people with disabilities to jobs that pay good wages. The SWTCIE project is the largest discretionary grant administered by RSA, with $167 million available to State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners.

The SWTCIE project advances a key Biden-Harris Administration goal – strengthening the economic security of Americans with disabilities. This funding opportunity aligns existing and emerging employment opportunities with the needs of employers and the public infrastructure. Most notably, activities will ensure people with disabilities are earning real pay for real jobs.

The Department's Rehabilitation Services Administration web page provides additional information about vocational rehabilitation opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Notice Inviting Applications is available for public inspection at the Federal Register. The Federal Register will publish the official version of the notice on Monday, March 21. The deadline for submissions is June 21, 2022.
Articles, Blogs and Reports to Consider
Manatt Health Blog: Unwinding of the Public Health Emergency
This blog breaks down the recent CMS guidance to states for the unwinding as well as provides additional resources.

NHELP Fact Sheet: Trends in EPSDT Litigation
The Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) provisions are among the most specific in the Medicaid Act. Over the years, however, states have not adhered to their responsibilities, and litigation has resulted. This Fact Sheet summarizes the federal requirements for EPSDT and provides an annotated case docket.

Center for American Progress Series: Black Women and Girls with Disabilities
As part of the series Black Women and Girls with Disabilities, consider reading this article How to Make Policies Work for Black Women with Disabilities. Links to other articles in the series are embedded within this article.

NCLC Report: Racial Health and Wealth Gap
A new report from the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), The Racial Health and Wealth Gap: Impact of Medical Debt on Black Families, examines the intersection between the racial health gap and the racial wealth gap and the harms of aggressive medical debt collection. The report comes on the heels of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report finding an estimated $88 billion in medical bills on credit reports.

Also by NCLC, a brief, Unfinished Business: Roadmap for an Equitable Economic Recovery in 2022 calls on the Administration to make good on its promise to advance equity, civil rights and racial justice across the federal government. As you know, many consumers face severe financial distress coming out of this pandemic. With the enhanced child tax credit and other federal supports and programs expiring, we are calling on the federal government to beef up protections in key areas to protect consumers' homes, assets and income, and to lessen the financial impact of the pandemic on families of color.  

Blog by the ARC: Review of Supreme Court Nominee Record
Check out this great summary blog that highlights key aspects of Judge Ketanji Borwn Jackson’s disability and civil rights record.

Child Trends Blog: Full Service Community Schools
This blog by Child Trends (March 17, 2022) describes Full Service Community Schools (schools that integrate social and health services, extended learning opportunities, family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership), provides data on their critical role during the Pandemic, and outlines how they are an effective strategy for children, families and to address poverty.
Webinars of Interest
Understanding and Addressing Unmet Needs in HCBS through the Lens of Person-Centered Practices
Thursday, March 31 | 3:00 - 4:30 pm ET
High-quality home- and community-based Services (HCBS) allow people with disabilities and older adults to direct their services in a person-centered manner, live independently, and participate in the community. However, many individuals who receive HCBS still have unmet needs for services and supports. While studies have found a connection between unmet HCBS needs and adverse outcomes, including hospitalization, institutionalization, and death; few have examined user-reported perspectives about the quality and sufficiency of HCBS and their relationship to key health and community living outcomes.

Researchers at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy conducted a study to learn how many people who use HCBS need more services than they receive and to understand the connection between unmet HCBS needs and health and community living outcomes. Panelists will discuss what implications the results of the study have in regard to person-centered planning in HCBS, highlight opportunities for improvement, and discuss how to overcome challenges to advancing person-centered practices.

Public Meeting: Air Travel by People who Use Wheelchairs
Thursday, March 24 | 10:15 am - 5:30 pm ET
During this meeting, there will be an opportunity to listen and learn from persons who use wheelchairs on the difficulties that they encounter during air travel and for airlines to discuss both the challenges that they face in providing accessible air transportation and the actions that they are taking or plan to take to improve the air travel environment.

Hosted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the meeting will better enable DOT to move expeditiously on any necessary action to advance safe accommodations for air travelers with disabilities using wheelchairsSee the Federal Register Notice announcing the meeting.

NOTE: Related piece of Legislation can be found HERE. Senator Baldwin and Representative Langevin have proposed updates to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) that has, for 35 years, prohibited discrimination based on disability in air travel. Despite the protections laid out in this law, too many individuals with disabilities still encounter significant barriers in air transportation—such as damaged assistive devices and wheelchairs, delayed assistance, ineffective communications, and lack of seating accommodations.

Thank you for subscribing to the Washington DC Update newsletter. Please feel free to contact the Family Voices Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Cara Coleman, with any questions. Past issues of the Update appear on the Family Voices website. If you wish to unsubscribe, you can do so via the "Unsubscribe" link below.

Family Voices is a national organization and grassroots network of families and friends of children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities that promotes partnership with families--including those of cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity--in order to improve healthcare services and policies for children.