Advocates are warning that a budget proposal advancing in Congress could cut or eliminate programs that many people with disabilities rely on.

A bill to fund federal labor, health and human services, education and related services for the fiscal year that begins in October was approved by a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee last week. The Republican measure includes a cut of $60.3 billion — or 29% — for programs under these departments as compared to funding levels for this year.

While lawmakers behind the proposal said that their legislation would maintain funding for special education and other programs serving people with disabilities, advocates say they aren’t feeling reassured.

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“Cuts of this magnitude will absolutely impact individuals with autism and other disabilities,” said Kim Musheno, vice president of public policy at the Autism Society of America.

Musheno pointed out that students with disabilities, for example, are often served primarily in general education classrooms, so they will feel cuts to education even if special education is in theory spared. Moreover, she noted that level funding is still a cut when considering inflation.

“These cuts will impact all students, including those with autism. In addition, cuts to housing, transportation, health care and NIH research, among others, will all impact people with disabilities.”

The proposal comes less than two months after Republicans and Democrats agreed to limits on domestic spending as part of a debt ceiling deal. But the figures being pushed through by House Republicans are substantially lower than the levels set in the bipartisan agreement, advocates say.

“Such drastic cuts will have grave consequences for housing assistance, education programs, healthcare, transportation, food assistance, employment opportunities and other vital supports and services that are integral to the well-being of people with disabilities, many of whom already live with low incomes or in poverty,” reads a recent letter to House leaders signed by 31 organizations that are part of the Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities. “Tragically, some individuals may even lose their lives due to the severity of these cuts.”

Musheno, with the Autism Society, said that the Senate is currently working in a more bipartisan fashion and is likely to approve funding levels that are in line with the debt ceiling agreement. But, she indicated that the divergent approaches are prompting worries about what’s to come.

“It’s hard to know how the two sides will be able to come to an agreement given their differences. Hence our concern about a possible government shutdown and the disruptions that causes,” she said.

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