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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Action Alert: Bipartisan Budget Act Passed – Now Ask the Senate to Increase IL Funding!

Late last week, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) that moved through the House last Wednesday evening. The BBA signifies a huge bipartisan achievement that raises overall funding levels. While funding levels are still dreadfully low, the BBA does address a number of important issues.

First, the BBA provides 2 years of significant sequestration relief by eliminating 90% of the sequestration budget cuts for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs in 2016 and 60% in 2017. The BBA provides $33 billion of relief for NDD programs in 2016 and $23 billion in 2017. It also provides balanced sequestration relief for defense and NDD by maintaining the parity principle, providing dollar-for-dollar relief.

Earlier this week, we sent an Action Alert with a comprehensive overview of the changes to Social Security. The overview goes through each section and subtitle of Title VIII (Social Security) in depth. Of particular note is that the BBA extends the solvency of SSDI through 2022 by reallocating funds from OASI (Trust Fund), thereby avoiding the 20% across-the-board cuts we have been strongly advocating against. The BBA also requires a demonstration to replace the existing “cash cliff” with a benefit offset of $1 benefit reduction for every $2 earned over a certain threshold. SSA could decide to test one or several thresholds at or below the current level of earnings that constitute a trial work month ($780 in 2015). This demonstration shares similarities but sets different levels than NCIL’s recommendations. Additionally, the BBA increases funding to the Social Security Administration to focus on fraud, oversight, and modernization.

Additionally, the BBA suspends the debt limit until March 2017, successfully avoiding a default by doing so before the November 3 deadline. It also avoids an anticipated 52% increase in Medicare Part B premiums for about one-third of Medicare enrollees. And while it’s still a possibility, the BBA greatly reduces the potential for a government shutdown this year or next year.

While the BBA represents a step in the right direction by raising overall funding levels, funding for many programs the disability community relies on are still devastatingly low. Even with the sequestration relief provided, NDD funding is still significantly lower than 2010 levels, and this is simply unacceptable. The fight for IL funding is far from over! The BBA sets the blueprint for top-line FY 2016 funding, but Congress still needs to work on passing individual spending bills (or one large omnibus bill).

Please help us make sure that Congress knows how important IL is to their constituents around the country by visiting the NCIL Action Portal to send a message to your Senators. This is especially important if you have Senators on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies! Please take action now to fight for increased funding for IL in the FY 2016 budget!

Senate Appropriations L-HHS-ED Subcommittee Members

Republicans:

  • Chairman Roy Blunt (MO)
  • Jerry Moran (KS)
  • Richard Shelby (AL)
  • Thad Cochran (MS)
  • Lamar Alexander (TN)
  • Lindsey Graham (SC)
  • Mark Kirk (IL)
  • Bill Cassidy (LA)
  • Shelley Moore Capito (WV)
  • James Lankford (OK)

Democrats:

  • Ranking Member Patty Murray (WA)
  • RIchard Durbin (IL)
  • Jack Reed (RI)
  • Barbara Mikulski (MD)
  • Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
  • Jeff Merkley (OR)
  • Brian Schatz (HI)
  • Tammy Baldwin (WI)

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