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National Disability Institute's Washington Insider is a monthly newsletter highlighting key federal policy news that impacts the financial futures and economic empowerment of all people with disabilities. The Washington Insider tracks legislative and policy initiatives gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, specifically in the areas of taxation, asset building and economic development.

 

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 November/December 2012 | Vol. 4, Issue 10
CONTENTS
ABLE Act Update
NDI's 2013 Draft Legislative Agenda
2013 PROMISE Grants
 

ABLE Act Update

The “lame duck” session of Congress began November 13th, and with the new session came additional ABLE Act cosponsors. The number of Congressional cosponsors is at an unprecedented level—234 in the House and 39 in the Senate.

What does this mean for the bill’s future? The high number of cosponsors means that, if the vote were put to the floor tomorrow, it would have enough votes to pass in the House.  However, the ABLE Act is too small to be a stand-alone bill, so the strategy has been to get it attached to a larger tax package that moves through Congress. The decision about whether the ABLE Act makes it into a larger tax package is in the hands of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI).

Disability advocates have met with House Speaker John Boehner and have hosted fly-ins to bring families to Washington to meet with their representatives and to urge cosponsorship and passage of the ABLE Act.  The big question is whether Congress will pass tax legislation in the lame duck or in 2013.

Support for this bill is at unprecedented levels and advocates have met with legislators at the highest and most influential levels of Congress. If ever there was a time where the ABLE Act was poised for passage, that time is now.

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NDI's 2013 Draft Legislative Agenda

NDI is in the process of developing its legislative agenda for 2013 and has sent the draft to the Board of Directors for review. We invite you to review the following agenda and to send comments to: awohl@ndi-inc.org.

In keeping with NDI’s mission of promoting economic empowerment for Americans with disabilities, the agenda is comprised of four categories:

I. Cross-Agency Coordination

  • Establish, by Executive Order, an Interagency Federal Task Force on Economic Empowerment for working age-adults with disabilities to identify barriers and propose solutions to federal policies that create disincentives to work, saving and asset- building.
  • Create financial empowerment centers to benefit people who are disabled and/or aging as a cross-(federal) agency initiative with private sector collaboration.

II. Asset Development Strategies

  • Enact the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, a tax-advantaged family savings program to encourage families with children with disabilities to set aside funds for future asset goals. If the ABLE Act passes in 2012, NDI will focus on its implementation.
  • Enact the Savings for Working Families Act to launch the availability of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to an estimated 900,000 low-income workers, including individuals with and without disabilities, over a seven-year period.
  • Expand the IRS community partnership development and volunteer tax preparation assistance programs to target low-income taxpayers with disabilities to ensure their enhanced access and use of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), financial education and low-cost affordable financial services and products.
  • Amend the Javits Wagner O’Day (JWOD) Act and AbilityOne Program to require that the AbilityOne and its central nonprofit organizations like NIB and NISH work with a new central nonprofit agency that serves as an intermediary for cooperatives who employ and share business ownership with individuals or individual business owners eligible under JWOD who have significant disabilities.
  • Support ODEP’s efforts to help states implement an Employment First framework that will focus the delivery of publicly-financed supports on integrated employment as the primary or preferred employment outcome for individuals with significant disabilities as a pathway to greater economic self-sufficiency.

III. Changes to Social Security

  • Reform asset limits to determine eligibility under SSI and Medicaid, as well as exclude as assets all restricted savings vehicle such as IRAs, 401(k) and 529 plans.
  • Raise the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level under SSDI.
  • Encourage the expansion of Plans for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) and similar tools to foster focused asset development and financial planning among the 10 million+ recipients of SSI and SSDI in an effort to help design, customize and accomplish financial goals on an annual basis based upon individual needs and preferences.

IV. Consumer Education and Protection

  • Amend the Workforce Investment Act to require all One-Stop Career Centers to offer financial education programs in collaboration with Treasury and the FDIC.
  • Amend Individual Plan requirements under IDEA, the Rehabilitation Act (VR), and Home and Community Based Service Waiver (Medicaid) to require annual consideration of the need for financial literacy skills development and objectives to advance economic self-sufficiency.
  • Monitor and influence implementation of the Affordable Care Act in order to prevent further financial destabilization persons with disabilities and to help define core threshold services to be included in healthcare exchanges.
  • Establish an office of Disability within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the Consumer Education and Engagement division to develop educational materials and tools to support informed financial decision-making and guidance to states to protect consumers with disabilities from financial exploitation.
  • Monitor the Direct Express program at the Department of the Treasury to advocate for elimination of bank fees on mandatory debit card use for Social Security beneficiaries who are unbanked.

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2013 PROMISE Grants

Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE), a joint initiative of the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and the Social Security Administration, was created to foster improved health, education, and post-secondary outcomes for children ages 14-17 who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as well as their families. The primary focus of the initiative is to support improved coordination of various services, such as those available through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants program, Medicaid health and home and community based services, Job Corps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Workforce Investment Act programs. PROMISE also seeks to facilitate the increased use of such services, ensuring that families are tied into programs for which they might be eligible, but are not yet participating.
The underlying premise of PROMISE is that improved coordination between services can improve outcomes for youth on SSI and their families. PROMISE's goals include improving the life outcomes of youth on SSI and decreasing their reliance on the program, as well as reducing the federal government's cost. As such, a small number of competitive grants have been awarded to states (http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/promise/index.html).

On November 8th, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) held a meeting with disability advocates, including NDI, to get their input on engaging partners, coordinating at the local level, and leveraging resources from various sources in preparation for development of the 2013 PROMISE grants.

NDI wants to ensure that PROMISE grants continue to focus on giving young people a pathway out of poverty not just to employment but to economic empowerment. Employment is not an end but a means to an end, which is financial stability and economic self-sufficiency.

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