blind_html [Fwd: While Disability Program Funding in Senate Stimulus is Back on Track, Limitations Persist]

  • From: Nimer <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 09 Feb 2009 12:02:41 -0700

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: While Disability Program Funding in Senate Stimulus is Back on Track, Limitations Persist
Date:   Mon, 9 Feb 2009 11:44:36 -0700
From:   Barbara Jackson LeMoine <blemoine@xxxxxxx>
To:     Barbara Jackson LeMoine <blemoine@xxxxxxx>

AFB DirectConnect Letterhead

*While Disability Program Funding in Senate Stimulus is Back on Track, Limitations Persist*

For further information, contact:

Mark Richert

Director, Public Policy, AFB

(202) 822-0833


At the close of last week, funding intended for special education, vocational rehabilitation and independent living was in serious jeopardy. As part of an effort led by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to retool the massive spending to be included in the Senate's stimulus package to ostensibly* *focus it on programs with a more direct impact on job creation, programs for people with disabilities were targeted. It now appears, however, that the push to trim federal spending in the Senate stimulus bill is no longer threatening services funded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Consequently, as reported last week via AFB-DC, the Senate remains poised to provide more than $13 billion for IDEA state grants and early intervention and $610 million for Rehab Act Title I and independent living services.

However, the restoration of spending levels for vital disability programs does not mean that the Senate proposal isn't without faults. Indeed, with regard to independent living services to older blind individuals, the Senate bill is inferior in two respects. First, the Senate proposal provides $110 million in spending for independent living services as opposed to $200 million as passed by the House. Second, while the House specifically culls out funding for the Title VII, Chapter 2, Independent Living Services for Older Individuals who are Blind program, namely at $50.6 million, the Senate bill fails to provide such direction. As a result, it will be necessary to work for adoption of the House's provisions concerning Rehab Act programs when the stimulus bill goes to conference.

Funding for special education is similarly potentially at risk under the Senate plan now in play. As reported last week and as appears to remain the case in spite of the recent political jockeying, the Senate proposal would allow state governors the flexibility to redirect education dollars to a variety of accounts as governors see fit with the consent of the Education Secretary. So while the special education spending level being proposed in the Senate remains at more than $13 billion, the Senate language leaves the door wide open to the risk that every dollar may not be used for such purposes. Again, the House-passed version of the stimulus does not include this potentially harmful language.

The challenging question that now confronts advocates is how to best influence the legislative process at this point. In theory, once the Senate passes its version of the stimulus package, the House and Senate versions would need to be reconciled through a conference process wherein resolution of the matters of concern discussed above could be possible. However, analysts are speculating that the House leadership, with possible encouragement from the White House, may simply agree to forego the conference process altogether, take up the version that the Senate will approve, and pass that measure on the House floor, clearing it for the President's signature. If that happens, there will be no opportunity to push for adoption of the House language that is favored over the Senate provisions. If at all feasible, AFB-DC readers will be informed as soon as possible whether there will in fact be an opportunity to advocate for clear spending for the older blind program and language providing assurances that special education dollars made available by the stimulus are spent for special education services and not on unrelated purposes.

Barbara Jackson LeMoine
Policy Analyst
American Foundation for the Blind
Public Policy Center
1660 L Street, N.W., Suite 513
Washington, DC 20036
E-mail: _blemoine@xxxxxxxx <mailto:blemoine@xxxxxxx>
Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss^TM

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