the advocacy monitor

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

Independent Living & The Rehabilitation Act

NCIL Submits FOIA Request to ACL on Independent Living Cuts

Over the past several years, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) has made several funding cuts to Centers for Independent Living (CILs) around the country. NCIL has concerns about both the legality of these cuts and how they were determined.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingAfter unsuccessful attempts to get a satisfactory explanation about why and how these cuts were made, NCIL has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for copies of all records pertaining to ACL’s Independent Living allotment determinations since 2015.

NCIL will continue to keep you updated as this situation progresses.

Death and Taxes: Dangerous Tax Reform Bill Introduced – Take Action Now!

Last week House Republicans unveiled their tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (PDF). Their bill makes major changes to the U.S. Tax Code, giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy while ultimately harming the rest of the country. Not only will the tax bill directly harm disabled and poor people, but it will also increase the national deficit by at least $1.5 trillion, setting the stage for major cuts to Medicaid and other essential programs that will bring even more harm to our community.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingTake Action Now!

Congress is trying to use the same fast-track process they tried to use on healthcare, and we must stop this bill before it gets to the Senate! If this tax plan becomes law, wealthy people and corporations will become richer, while people with disabilities, poor people, and other marginalized communities foot the bill. We must stop this! Call your Representatives by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY) today! See below for more details about the bill.

Background: While the tax bill is full of permanent tax cuts that will benefit wealthy people and corporations, everyone else will see little or no benefit. In fact, the New York Times recently reported that the bill would raise taxes for nearly 13 million people earning less than $100,000 a year. There is no doubt that disabled and low-income individuals will be harmed by this bill.  [Read more…]

Information Alert: The FY 2018 Federal Budget

Congress has finished a budget resolution and it sets the stage for tax cuts, an increased deficit, and includes dangerous cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs critical to our independence.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe House plans to introduce a tax reform (cuts) bill this week as well and to send it to the Senate by Thanksgiving. Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. The budget resolution will increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion, and it assumes over $5 trillion in cuts to services over the next decade. With numbers like these, no programs are safe. Congress has shown us time and again that they are intent on slashing Medicaid, and unsurprisingly, their tax plan will provide them with the opportunity to do just that. The Senate budget calls for trillions of dollars in cuts to mandatory programs (which includes programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security). Much of the remainder will come from non-defense discretionary funding, which includes other programs we rely on like the Independent Living Program, housing assistance, and education. If this tax plan becomes law, people with disabilities, poor people, and other marginalized communities will be significantly harmed, while wealthy people and corporations reap the benefits.

We must be prepared to react – and to react quickly! Start preparing NOW. Gather stories demonstrating the value of CIL services. Gather data on the value of CIL services – the number of people diverted and transitioned from institutionalization – and the savings to your state because of these critical programs.

Invite Senators and Congressional Representatives to visit your CIL to see what you do.  [Read more…]

Information Alert: The FY 2018 Federal Budget

Yesterday night the Senate passed their FY 2018 budget resolution with a 51-49 vote. What comes next could have a big impact on our community, and will require us to once again ramp up our advocacy efforts. That’s because the main goal for this year’s budget is to set the stage for a major tax cut bill, which will increase the deficit and lead to dangerous cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs our lives and independence rely on.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe Senate budget resolution is a plan – not a law – so the budget itself doesn’t make changes to funding or the tax code. Rather, the budget resolution provides instructions that pave the way for Congress to pass their tax cut legislation using the reconciliation process, meaning it will only require a simple majority of votes. We’ve seen the GOP’s tax reform priorities (link below), and it’s clear that the Senate intends to use this process to pass tax cut legislation that will benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations while significantly increasing the federal deficit and negatively impacting everyone else.

Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. The budget resolution will increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion, and it assumes over $5 trillion in cuts to services over the next decade. With numbers like these, no programs are safe. Congress has shown us time and again that they are intent on slashing Medicaid, and unsurprisingly, their tax plan will provide them with the opportunity to do just that. The Senate budget calls for trillions of dollars in cuts to mandatory programs (which includes programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security). Much of the remainder will come from non-defense discretionary funding, which includes other programs we rely on like the Independent Living Program, housing assistance, and education. If this tax plan becomes law, people with disabilities, poor people, and other marginalized communities will be significantly harmed, while wealthy people and corporations reap the benefits.

Late-night changes to the budget resolution were intended to reconcile the Senate and House budgets, and the House is expected to vote on and pass the same budget next week. That said, the budget is just the first step. Our goal is to stop the tax bill that will lead to cuts to the programs people with disabilities need.

We will continue to monitor these efforts as they progress. We’ll continue to follow progress on the tax bill as well as appropriations, and we will keep you informed of any new developments. One thing is for sure: a plan that will result in trillions of dollars in cuts to the programs we rely on is not good for our country. But the disability community has demonstrated that we are powerful, and together, we will work to stop this.

For additional information:

New Video: Disability Advocates Improve Their Community for All

“Stoplights Don’t Stop Us!” tells the story of people with disabilities in Emporia, Kansas, who advocated for change in their community that enhanced their ability to participate. The video is also available with audio description.

The consumers carried out their work as part of a project conducted by the Research & Training Center on Community Living (RTCIL). The Building Capacity for Full Community Participation research team partnered with eight Centers for Independent Living around the country to provide CIL consumers with tools for making community change.

You can learn more about this process for making change in RTCIL’s free publication: Your Action Planning Guide for Promoting Full Community Participation Among People with Disabilities: A Resource for Independent Living Centers and Other Community-based Initiatives” (PDF).

NCIL Releases Disability Pride Toolkit

NCIL is pleased to announce the release of our Disability Pride Toolkit, which was developed by outgoing Youth Transitions Fellow Kings Floyd in collaboration with NCIL’s Youth Caucus.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThis toolkit is designed to help Youth Transitions Coordinators and Centers for Independent Living get started talking about disability pride within their local communities. While it is specifically targeted toward youth, the toolkit will be useful to advocates of any age.

The goal of the toolkit is to facilitate conversation about what it means to be proud of a disability identity as well as other intersectional identities. We encourage Centers for Independent Living and Statewide Independent Living Councils to start talking with youth in their communities about these topics, so that disability pride will be reflected in every aspect of the important work we accomplish together.

Please email hindley@ncil.org, current Youth Transitions Fellow, with any questions.

Independent Living Appropriations Update

With the deadline for the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, Congress passed and the President signed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded at current levels and suspend the debt ceiling through December 8, 2017. The legislation also provides $15.25 billion in emergency disaster relief funding.

This CR gives Congress additional time to work on their appropriations bills. That said, both the House and Senate have passed their Labor-HHS-Education (L-HHS-Ed) bills out of the Appropriations Committee. Both bills level fund the Independent Living program at $101,183,000, which includes $22,878,000 in Part B funding and $78,305,000 in Part C funding.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingWhile level funding is far from what we need, we are very happy that neither the House nor the Senate accepted the President’s proposal to make cuts to the Independent Living program’s Part B funding to create his proposed “Partnerships for Innovation, Inclusion, and Independence” (P3I). Both the House and the Senate included the exact same language in their reports, stating that they recognize the unique role played by each program (Statewide Independent Living Councils, State Councils on Developmental Disabilities, and State Advisory Boards on Traumatic Brain Injury) and that consolidation would not serve the needs of people with disabilities. Thank you to everyone who spoke out against this proposal. Our collective action on this helped to avoid what would have been disastrous cuts.

Now Congress has until December 8, 2017 to finalize each of their 12 annual appropriations bills. While Congress has made significant progress on many of the individual spending bills, there are differences between House and Senate bills that will have to be reconciled. Further, if Congress does not raise the cap on discretionary funding that’s required under the Budget Control Act of 2011, sequestration will go into effect, resulting in across-the-board cuts that will severely impact the programs and services people with disabilities rely on, including the Independent Living Program. Read more about the history of the Budget Control Act and sequestration in a 2012 NCIL Action Alert.

We will continue to keep you updated as more information is available. You can review both the House and Senate’s bills and reports below.

Cancelled: Building an Inclusive Statewide Independent Living Council

Cancellation Notice: Building an Inclusive Statewide Independent Living Council

We are sorry to announce that the upcoming teleconference and webinar, “Building an Inclusive Statewide Independent Living Council” has been cancelled. We hope to reschedule this event, but because we are unable to confirm a new date and time, we have decided to cancel the event for now. We will provide a full refund to everyone who registered to attend.

Originally scheduled for: September 13, 2017; 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Eastern

[Read more…]

RTC:Rural Releases Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit

This toolkit is a guide for Centers for Independent Living and others to conduct interactive and engaging workshops to facilitate the development of advocacy skills of emerging Independent Living leaders and youth with disabilities. It describes how to introduce advocacy through the facilitation of unique activities and discussions, identifying issues of importance, and putting advocacy skills into practice. A unique approach presented in this toolkit is the use of improv to introduce, invite, and engage others into and with the world of advocacy. Read more at rtc.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/resources

Additional Talking Points on ACL’s PIII Proposal

As a follow-up to yesterday’s alert on the Administration for Community Living (ACL) PIII proposal, we are sharing these additional talking points courtesy of the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL).

Submit comments directly to ACL by Friday, August 11, 2017 via email P3I-comments@acl.hhs.gov.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingSuggested Talking Points:

  • I oppose the proposed plan to create a new partnership for innovation, inclusion, and independence. Innovation, inclusion, and independence are not achieved by eliminating three distinct disability councils and reducing their combined funding by 57%!
  • In order to achieve real and meaningful innovation, inclusion, and independence, the President, Congress, and HHS/ACL should invest additional funds to support the work of the existing councils to prioritize the goals of innovation, inclusion, and independence.
  • The concepts of innovation, inclusion, and independence are already consistent with the purpose of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, which seeks “to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society.”
  • The Independent Living (cross-disability), Developmental Disability, and Traumatic Brain Injury networks have long-standing histories and populations with specific needs. They each are connected to Federal disability laws. Congressional authority is required to change any of these programs.
  • The Independent Living State Grants (Part B) are the primary funding source of many Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs). SILCs will cease to exist if this plan moves forward. The progress made to date will be discontinued and the proposed partnership will negatively impact people with disabilities, their families, communities and networks.
  • SILCs are consumer-controlled. This means most of the appointed members are people with disabilities. The primary responsibility of each council is to develop, monitor, and evaluate the 3-year federal Statewide Plan for Independent Living. These plans outline goals and objectives to improve the independence of people with disabilities. Eliminating these funds will halt an intentionally designed, consumer-controlled process, whereby people with disabilities have direct input into both the state plan and the direction of Independent Living.
  • In many states, these funds are used for Center operations.

In addition to using the model talking points above, we encourage you to personalize your message to speak to the impact the Independent Living Part B funds have had on you, your Center and / or the local community. Think about including an example of progress achieved in your state as a result of these funds.