House Approves Largest Investment Ever In Community-Based Services
A roughly $2 trillion bill including a historic investment in Medicaid home and community-based services and support for employment, housing and other disability programs is one step closer to becoming law.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 220 to 213 to approve President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better Act” just before leaving for Thanksgiving.
The bill, which has been in the works for months, would inject $150 billion into home and community-based services with any eye toward getting people with disabilities off of waiting lists and bolstering the workforce of direct support professionals who provide such services.
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That’s considerably smaller than Biden’s initial proposal of $400 billion. But if approved, the investment would be the largest that Congress has ever made in the program that provides the support people with disabilities need to live in their own homes or in group homes rather than in institutional settings.
“This plan is major progress in our country doing what we know is right: putting vital dollars behind something that really should never come with a price tag — basic humanity,” said Peter Berns, chief executive officer at The Arc. “People with disabilities, families and the direct support professionals who support them are struggling to persevere through the hardest of times while suffering in unprecedented ways. And the clock is ticking on how much more they can take.”
The plan also would allocate $300 million to help facilitate the transition to competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities who are currently paid subminimum wage. It would make permanent a Medicaid program called Money Follows the Person that helps people with disabilities leave institutions for community-based settings. And, it includes $160 million for special education teacher training as well as $500 million for the Section 811 program that provides rental assistance for low-income people with disabilities.
More broadly, the bill also offers preschool for all children ages 3 and 4 and four weeks of paid family and medical leave for workers.
Now the bill heads to the Senate where it’s likely to be hotly debated and could face changes. Disability advocates are already mobilizing their members to push lawmakers to act quickly on the measure.
“With almost a million people languishing on waiting lists for services, students needing extra supports to catch up in schools and all of the other extraordinary needs exacerbated by the pandemic, it is urgent that the Senate not delay in passing this bill and the president signing it into law,” said Kim Musheno, vice president of public policy at the Autism Society of America.