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Washington DC Update 3/3/22
“If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.”

As both chambers of Congress kick off the March legislative work session this week there is likely to be a lot of roaring as they deal with a March 11 government funding deadline, a lengthy list of legislative priorities, Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and crisis in Ukraine. 

Government Funding
There is optimism that the parties are close to reaching an omnibus spending deal for fiscal year (FY) 2022 by March 11th, including the White House’s $6.4 billion request for supplemental appropriations to support Ukraine. If they can reach agreement on FY2022 budget and pass a spending deal on that year, the cycle begins again and the FY2023 appropriations process will begin in March. The success of reaching a deal this month and starting anew requires a lot of lambs…

Supreme Court Nominee
President Joe Biden has nominated federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former public defender, to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) has said he would like to see Jackson confirmed by the start of the chamber’s Easter break, which begins April 8. He has not announced dates for confirmation hearings.
Legislative Update
S. 1543, the “Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention Act of 2021” or the “STANDUP Act of 2021,” would require state, tribal, and local educational agencies that receive grant funding for priority mental health needs to establish and implement evidence-based suicide awareness and prevention training policies. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in coordination with the Department of Education and Bureau of Indian Education, would provide educational agencies with best practices for these trainings. House companion bill H.R. 586, introduced by Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) and 14 other original cosponsors, passed in the House on May 13, 2021. The Senate bill passed on the House Floor by voice vote.
From the Administration
Fact Sheet: Remarks on Economy from First State of the Union Address
Fact sheet link here.
Highlighting remark of note below:

Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour: President Biden will recount that throughout the pandemic, millions of American workers have put their lives on the line to keep their communities and country functioning, including the 40 percent of frontline workers who are people of color. The President will express his belief that hard-working Americans deserve sufficient wages to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, without having to work multiple jobs. The President already issued executive actions to ensure 370,000 federal employees and employees of federal contractors are paid a minimum of $15 per hour – because investing in workers also makes employers, including the government, work better and faster. The President will call on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities so that workers across the country can have a little breathing room and provide opportunity for their families.
Fact Sheet: Actions to Address the Needs of People with Disabilities and Older Adults in Response to and Recovery from COVID-19
The Biden administration laid out several new policy initiatives that seek to support the needs of people with disabilities and older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this new fact sheet, the White House announced the following actions:

  • Providing schools with guidance and support to keep students with disabilities safe and learning in-person.
  • Expanding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living’s Disability Information and Access Line to support persons with disabilities who face difficulty using or cannot use a self-test.
  • Launching new COVID-19 testing guidance in American Sign Language and reviewing all existing COVID-19 guidance to confirm accessibility for persons with disabilities.
  • Launching a new effort to develop at-home COVID-19 tests that are accessible to everyone with a disability through the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s RADx program.
  • Incentivizing all at-home test manufacturers to prioritize accessibility of at-home tests.
  • Requesting accessible instructions from manufacturers who have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
  • Distributing N95 masks to persons with disabilities who cannot leave their homes through health centers and aging and disability networks.
  • Calling on all states to directly distribute high-quality masks through community-based organizations serving persons with disabilities.
National Council on Disability (NCD): Health Equity Framework
NCD’s Health Equity Framework is the outgrowth of an acknowledgment of decades of health disparities experienced by people with disabilities, and of physical and systemic barriers to accessing health care for people with disabilities; and the desire to address these inequalities and achieve health equity for all persons with disabilities. NCD’s framework begins with four core areas that NCD views as foundational for achieving health equity for people with disabilities:

  • Designating people with disabilities as a Special Medically Underserved Population (SMUP) under the Public Health Services Act;
  • Requiring comprehensive disability clinical-care curricula in all US medical, nursing and other healthcare professional schools and requiring disability competency education and training of medical, nursing and other healthcare professionals;
  • Requiring the use of accessible medical and diagnostic equipment; and
  • Improving data collection concerning healthcare for people with disabilities across the lifespan.
Proposed Rulemaking: Public Charge immigration rule
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveiled a notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to roll back Trump administration policies to the Department’s so-called “public charge” immigration rule. In the proposed rulemaking, DHS is proposing to consider the following public benefits when making a public charge inadmissibility determination:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI); 
  • Cash assistance for income maintenance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program; 
  • State, tribal, territorial, and local cash assistance for income maintenance; and 
  • Long-term institutionalization at government expense.
HHS Report: Supply Chain Improvements
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra today issued a new report highlighting the progress that has been made over the past year to strengthen the U.S. public health and medical supply chain and industrial base.
The report highlights the U.S. government’s accomplishments in addressing public health and medical supply chain challenges since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, describes how HHS is implementing the recommendations and goals in the National Strategy for a Resilient Public Health Supply Chain, and outlines additional actions the U.S. government can take to build on its progress. Full news release here.
HHS Report: Health care Coverage Black Americans
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new report that shows historic gains in health care coverage access and affordability among Black Americans. The report, which was produced by researchers in HHS's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), shows that since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage provisions beginning in 2010, the uninsured rate among Black Americans under age 65 decreased from 20 percent in 2011 (approximately 7.1 million people) to 12 percent in 2019 (approximately 4.4 million people), a decline of 40 percent.

The report shows that states that have not expanded Medicaid have the highest percentage of uninsured adults and children who are Black. If the remaining twelve non-expansion states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming) were to expand Medicaid, an estimated 957,000 Black Americans without insurance coverage would become eligible for Medicaid coverage. Read the ASPE report.
Blog Posts of Interest and Funding Opportunity
Blog Post of Interest: New Data on Medical Debt
Unpaid medical bills are among the largest contributors to personal debt in the United States. Evidence indicates that medical debt disproportionately affects people of color and individuals with lower incomes. The Center on Health Insurance Reforms' (CHIR) Maanasa Kona takes a look at new data from the Census Bureau and state court records that demonstrate the disparate impact of medical debt and what policymakers can do to protect consumers from aggressive debt collection. Check out this Georgetown Center for Health Insurance Reform blog post for startling information.
Child Trends Blog Post of Interest: Child Welfare and Financial Instability
Families that experience poverty-related stressors such as income insecurity or lossmaterial hardship, and housing hardship or instability—in other words, families with a financial inability to provide for their children—are also more likely to come into contact with the child welfare system. The intersection of poverty and economic insecurity with neglect poses a challenge to child welfare agencies when they respond to reports of maltreatment. Of all maltreatment types, neglect is particularly difficult to identify and define because it involves the omission—rather than the commission—of actions that can harm children. Untangling whether a child’s unmet needs are due to poverty or to some other factor is difficult, which begs the question: To what degree do child welfare agencies include income-related factors in their definitions of child maltreatment? The answer is different in every state. Check out the full blog post here.
Funding Opportunity: PCORI Targeting Mental Health in ID/DD
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) released the Comparative Effectiveness of Interventions Targeting Mental Health in Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Targeted PCORI Funding Announcement (Targeted PFA). This Targeted PFA aims to fund high-quality, rigorous randomized controlled trials or observational, prospective cohort studies that compare the effectiveness of evidence-based approaches (e.g., specific pharmacological and behavioral interventions) that address mental health conditions in individuals with IDD. Proposed studies should compare the effectiveness of pharmacological, behavioral, or other nonpharmacological or combination interventions administered via appropriate delivery modalities (e.g., telehealth, family-based, group, or individual). Studies focused on pediatric, transitional age, and adult individuals with mild to moderate IDD-related impairment, those with more severe impairment due to IDDs, underrepresented groups, and underserved populations (e.g., individuals in rural settings) are of particular interest.

Here is the funding announcement for more information about this Targeted PFA. 

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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.