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Latest Updates from the Legislature

Read on about all the latest legislative news, both on the local and federal levels.

We’ve had some recent developments on the legislative end, both on the local and federal levels. Please read about the updates below from our trade associations, ANCOR and ARRM. We’re making progress for support of disability services, but there’s still more to do! Please stay tuned for any upcoming legislative asks that we send out. Thank you!

LOCAL LEVEL:
(From ARRM)

2020 Regular Legislative Session Comes to an End

The 2020 Legislative Session adjourned sine die on May 15 at midnight with a lot of things left undone.

The session’s trajectory was drastically changed with the COVID-19 crisis, taking a projected $1.6 billion surplus in February and turning it into a projected $2.4 billion deficit by early May. Legislators began working remotely starting in April, altering the way committee hearings and floor sessions operated while public access to the State Capitol and Senate and House offices were restricted. All of these dynamics led to a rocky end of the regular session, with a special session imminent.

Here are a few things that DID NOT get completed:

  • A bonding bill
  • A tax bill
  • A supplemental appropriations package
  • Many omnibus policy bills, such as the Human Services Reform Finance and Policy omnibus bill
  • Ratification of state worker contracts

Additionally, ARRM’s legislative agenda contained three policy provisions that were included in the broader Human Services Reform Finance and Policy omnibus bill that was carried by Senator Abeler and Representative Moran (SF 3322). This bill passed off the Senate floor mid-week last week but was NOT taken up before the midnight deadline in the House. As a reminder, ARRM’s provisions that are included in this bill include:

  • Extension of the sunset date to add a 5th person to a home
  • Extending the timeline for a 45-day planning meeting
  • Allowing the Designated Coordinator to deem someone competent to provide training and determine competency of items in a CSSP Addendum

Other items contained in this bill of significance to the disability community include:

  • Sexual violence prevention training for Direct Support Professionals
  • Employment First, Self-Direction First, and Independent Living First policy statements
  • Prohibition on the use of restrictive & deprivation procedures on children with Autism accessing the Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention benefit
  • Technical change to the Medical Assistance spend down
  • Consumer Directed Community Supports codification
  • Flexibility for the Department of Human Services to continue waiving certain statutory regulations in response to COVID-19

As for ARRM’s other legislative agenda items including a rate increase for ICF’s, changing unit respite to a market rate, adjusting the absence and utilization for IHS with Training and making additional changes to the Competitive Workforce Factor- the legislature halted all future spending bills given the future uncertainty of the state’s economic forecast and therefore, none of these items were adopted.

A few items that were passed by the legislature during the regular session include:

  • Omnibus data practices bill
  • Omnibus agriculture bill
  • Health and Human Services omnibus policy bill
  • Omnibus transportation bill
  • Omnibus education finance bill
  • Omnibus elections bill
  • Alex Smith Insulin Affordability Act
  • Drug Pricing Transparency Act
  • Raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21
  • Expanded Safe Seniors Financial Protection Act
  • Guardianship reform bill
    • Elimination of the term “ward”
    • Time-limited guardianship of young adults
    • Definition of supported decision making
    • Strengthened Bill of Rights for persons subject to guardianship
    • Strengthened consideration of less-restrictive alternatives before a judge will approve a guardianship order

As we look ahead, the Governor, as well as the leaders in the Senate and House have signaled that a special session will be coming, with mid-June being discussed as a possible date to reconvene. We have already begun speaking with our legislative allies to make sure that the Human Services Omnibus bill is included in a potential special session.

Please look for more information from me as we move through the next few weeks, thank you for all you do.

- Sara Grafstrom, Director of State and Federal Policy


FEDERAL LEVEL:
(From ANCOR)

ANCOR Members Help Secure COVID-19 Emergency Relief

We write to share some very exciting news: after more than three months of sustained advocacy by the ANCOR community, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has finally announced a commitment of COVID-19 emergency relief funds for Medicaid-reliant providers of I/DD services!

The announcement from HHS' Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) indicated that of the $25 billion to be allocated in this tranche of aid from the Public Health & Social Services Emergency Fund, up to $15 billion will be made available to Medicaid-funded providers of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). While we don't know the exact amount that HCBS programs will receive out of that $15 billion, HRSA's announcement indicated that "The payment to each provider will be at least 2 percent of reported gross revenue."

Without a doubt, this is a significant victory and one that simply would not have been possible without you. Since the beginning of March when ANCOR began advocating at the federal level for critical resources to support providers through the pandemic:

  • 39,710 advocates have taken action at the ANCOR Amplifier, sending 150,042 messages to every congressional office on Capitol Hill.
  • 362,220 individuals have been exposed to our #ForgottenFaces campaign on social media, generating 1,042,493 impressions.
  • More than 30 news articles and more than 20 opinion pieces have been placed in major local and national news outlets, including as recently as today, when ANCOR’s fiscal impact report was cited on a front-page NPR story about the impact of COVID-19 on people with I/DD.
  • 2,567 advocates have signed up to participate in the five national COVID-19 response briefings we’ve hosted, including dozens of Capitol Hill staffers and other key influencers.

To say we’ve been blown away by all that we’ve accomplished together would be an understatement. ANCOR has been relentless in its pursuit of emergency relief funding, but at every turn, ANCOR members have risen to the occasion, lending their voices to amplify our calls for federal support.

At the same time, we know that the funding announced today represents only a small fraction of what community-based disability services will need, and our work is far from over. Therefore, we want you to be aware of our next steps:

  1. First and foremost, we will be seeking more information about how to ensure the emergency relief announced today makes its way into the bank accounts of our members. To that end, we will be keeping you apprised of what we’re hearing on the ground.
  2. Although $15 billion will not be enough for HCBS programs, there still remains about $63 billion in the Emergency Fund, and we anticipate there will be further disbursements from that fund for our services. Therefore, we will continue to advocate as we have been, and we thank you in advance for continuing to lend you voice.
  3. Especially if further Emergency Fund dollars aren’t allocated to Medicaid-dependent disability services, it will be critical that the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation includes money specifically designated for providers like you. Here again, we will be keeping our feet on the gas and look forward to engaging you in our advocacy efforts.

Congratulations for all you’ve done to help us secure this important victory. If ever there was doubt that your advocacy is making a difference, today’s milestone is proof that your efforts are ensuring the pandemic’s #ForgottenFaces are no longer left behind by the federal COVID-19 response.

Onward!

- Barbara Merrill, CEO, ANCOR