After years in limbo, advocates say a deal is in the works to permanently renew a popular federal program that moves people with disabilities from institutions to the community.

A bipartisan proposal in the U.S. Senate would reauthorize Money Follows the Person. The Medicaid program gives states funding to pay for employment supports, housing and other services so that people with disabilities can transition from nursing homes and other institutional facilities to homes in the community.

Money Follows the Person officially expired in 2016 and has been teetering on collapse since then as Congress passed a series of short-term extensions, the latest of which runs out this month.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Under the new plan, however, the program would have no end date and it would be funded at $450 million annually for the next 10 years. The proposal is tucked inside a larger bill known as the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019.

“If this MFP measure passes, it could be one the decade’s most significant legislative victories for community inclusion and the providers who make it possible,” said Barbara Merrill, chief executive officer at the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR, a trade group representing community-based services providers across the country.

Disability advocates are cautiously optimistic that Congress will approve the plan before the end of this year. They are urging supporters to contact their lawmakers during a national call-in day Monday designed to pressure Congress to follow through.

States have received nearly $3.7 billion to transition more than 91,000 people into the community since 2006 through Money Follows the Person.

Advocates had been pressing for a bill that would have renewed Money Follows the Person for five years, but they say that the permanent renewal that’s now on the table is even better.

“We’ve had folks working on this and calling on this for years now,” said Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy at The Arc. “Once we get a permanent fix to Money Follows the Person, we can look at other broad access issues like the wait lists, like support for paying direct support professionals more and other initiatives.”

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.