Special Ed, Disability Programs Spared In Government Budget Deal
The federal government will increase funding for special education and allocate money to address the needs of caregivers as part of a spending bill that’s expected to be signed by President Donald Trump.
The legislation to fund federal labor, education, health and defense programs for the government’s next fiscal year — which begins in October — passed the U.S. Senate last week and was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Trump has indicated that he will sign the measure.
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The move — along with passage of a separate short-term bill to fund other agencies — would avert a government shutdown when current funding expires at the close of September.
Under the spending plan, $12.4 billion will go to special education, an increase of $87 million over this year.
In addition, an extra $69 million will head to state grants for vocational rehabilitation, $15 million more will go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, $3 million will be added for independent living programs and there is a $1.5 million boost for the Health Resources & Services Administration’s Autism and Other Developmental Disorders program.
The bill also provides $300,000 for the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which requires the government to establish a national strategy for addressing the needs of family caregivers. The initiative was approved earlier this year, but had been on hold while the Administration for Community Living waited for funds to implement it, disability advocates said.
What’s more, lawmakers tagged $5 million to establish a new Care Corps program to help public agencies and nonprofits place volunteers who can help older Americans and people with disabilities “in maintaining independence by providing non-medical care.”
Most other federal programs that people with disabilities rely on will see level funding for the new fiscal year under the plan, according to advocates.
Kim Musheno, vice president of public policy at the Autism Society of America, said her group is “generally pleased to see that, in this austere fiscal environment, many of the programs that support people with disabilities are kept at the same level as last year’s spending bill.”
Nonetheless, Annie Acosta, director of fiscal and family support policy at The Arc, noted that consistent appropriations do not necessarily translate to equivalent services.
“No increase is essentially a cut when you factor in annual inflation of about 2.5 percent, not to mention any effects of population growth and increased and unmet need for services,” she said.
At the same time, however, Acosta indicated that merely seeing a spending bill move forward at this juncture is a positive sign. In recent years, Congress has been repeatedly unable to agree to fund the government before the end of its fiscal year leading to a cycle of short-term spending plans.
“We are pleased to see no cuts to our programs, and a full year appropriation that is, in and of itself, good news for the ability of agencies to plan and award funding. We also welcome a return to regular order,” Acosta said.