-------- Original Message --------Subject: For People with Vision Loss and Other Disabilities, Stimulus Bill Raises Many Hopes and Some Concerns
Date: Wed, 4 Feb 2009 13:11:37 -0500 From: AFB DirectConnect <blemoine@xxxxxxx> To: AFB Subscriber <afbweb@xxxxxxx> AFB DirectConnect Letterhead*For People with Vision Loss and Other Disabilities, Stimulus Bill Raises Many Hopes and Some Concerns*
For further information, contact: Mark Richert Director, Public Policy 202-822-0833 mrichert@xxxxxxx <mailto:mrichert@xxxxxxx>As Congress moves closer to passing a massive $900 billion economic recovery and stimulus package, the Obama Administration is reaching out to organizations of and for people with disabilities to ask for their express support for the President's call for prompt passage of the legislation. And indeed, the organized disability community has generally found many aspects of the stimulus plan very favorable to programs and services for people with disabilities. Among the many provisions on the table having an impact on people with disabilities, key funding priorities include--
over $13.6 billion for state assistance to provide special education, related services, and early childhood intervention;
over $500 million for vocational rehabilitation without the usual requirement of state matching funds;
over $50 million for services to older individuals who are blind under Title VII, Chapter 2 of the Rehabilitation Act;
a one-time extra monthly payment to recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
However, differences between the detailed language now being debated in the Senate and the House-passed version of the plan do raise some questions. For example, the Senate version of the plan is raising significant concern on the part of special education advocates who fear that the Senate's proposal to allow state governors the flexibility to redirect special education dollars to other accounts with the approval of the U.S. Secretary of Education is dangerous public policy. The House did not take such an approach. In addition, while the House version specifically provides dollar amounts for the older blind and other independent living programs, the Senate bill does not specifically delineate the funding amounts for these services. This is particularly troubling in as much as the Senate version would fund Rehab Act programs and services at a level that is considerably lower than the House passed version of the plan.
These and myriad other differences will no doubt be the subject of an historic conference between the House and Senate once the Senate passes its version of the plan. In general, funds provided under the plan will be available over two years and are not intended to substitute for funds that are made available during the ordinary appropriations process that Congress engages in each fiscal year. Obviously the fear on the part of advocates is that the severity of the U.S. economic downturn and the massive investments being proposed in this stimulus plan may lead to overwhelming pressure for cuts in programs in those appropriations measures to come. While time will tell, advocates are preparing to work with House and Senate leaders to be part of the process to reconcile the two approaches on the table. Stay tuned for future updates and calls to action as the process unfolds in the next couple of weeks.
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