The National Council on Independent Living has actively campaigned to address serious concerns about proposed changes to the companionship exemption. We are deeply concerned that the proposed rules will:
- Force seniors and people with disabilities into institutions;
- Cut the take-home pay of attendants;
- Reduce the attendant workforce;
- Force people with disabilities to hire strangers as attendants; and
- Devastate consumer-directed programs.
For well over a year, NCIL, ADAPT and other disability organizations have urged the Obama Administration to find a way to engage us in the rulemaking process, because the US Department of Labor developed and published these rules without input from the disability community. Although the administration met with us after releasing the rules, the rule-making process has prevented them from engaging in any actual conversation with us about what the proposed rules could look like.
We had hoped that Tom Perez – as the Department of Labor Secretary – would understand our concerns and find a way to bring everyone – including the disability community – to the same table. With very little notice, Secretary Perez announced he was holding listening sessions about the proposed rules on August 19th. Given that the rules were previously sent to the Office of Management and Budget, we believed that he planned to address our concerns by bringing the rules back to the Department of Labor as the starting point for substantive discussions with the disability community.
We understand that instead of doing that, the Obama Administration intends to release the rules either today or very soon. It seems clear the listening session wasn’t intended to bring NCIL and the disability community to the table.
Right now, we understand that the administration is considering a delay in enforcement by the Department of Labor on consumer directed programs. That doesn’t address our concern. Consumer directed programs funded by Medicaid are expected to follow all labor laws. The US Department of Labor isn’t the only entity charged with enforcement of labor rules, and individuals would still have a right to private action, so our programs could be sued and held accountable for paying overtime – even if DOL delays enforcement and there isn’t Medicaid funding to do so. It is ridiculous that we have to clarify our positions and respond to proposals like this through public statements, rather than face to face conversations.
NCIL has only wanted to have the disability community be part of the decision-making process. This is fundamental to Independent Living and we do this every day through our national network. NCIL is deeply disappointed that Secretary Perez hasn’t adhered to this fundamental value of the Independent Living Movement and our community.
NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US!