For the fourth time in a year, lawmakers acted to keep alive a program that moves people with disabilities from institutions into the community, but its long-term fate remains in jeopardy.

Money Follows the Person will stay afloat until May 22 under a plan that was included within a larger federal appropriations package signed by President Donald Trump just before the close of 2019.

The Medicaid program provides funding to states to cover employment supports, housing and other services so that individuals with disabilities can transition from nursing homes and other institutional facilities to homes in the community. It officially expired in 2016 and has been in limbo ever since as Congress has repeatedly passed short-term extensions.

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Disability advocates were optimistic when a bipartisan agreement was reached in December to make Money Follows the Person permanent. At the time, they thought the plan would pass before the end of 2019. Instead, however, time ran short and with funding for the program set to end before the start of the new year, a five-month extension was inserted into the budget bill.

“While this is a disappointing turn of events, we have our marching orders for 2020 — advocate, advocate, advocate for a permanent commitment to Money Follows the Person,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Advocates said that the timing sets up Money Follows the Person to be included in a larger health care package that Congress is expected to pass in May.

Since 2006, states have received nearly $3.7 billion to transition more than 91,000 people into the community through Money Follows the Person. These transitions have led to better quality of life outcomes and yielded an average of 20 percent savings in monthly costs to Medicaid per beneficiary, according to The Arc.

“There is widespread, bipartisan support for this successful program,” Berns said. “If we are going to achieve the goal of bringing people out of the dark shadows of institutions to live meaningful, independent lives in the communities of their choice among their family members and peers, with appropriate supports and services, then Congress has to step up.”

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