American Rescue Plan Act: Congress continues to debate the contents of the next round of Federal economic and pandemic related relief. The US House passed the American Relief Act on February 27 and the Senate Passed its version of the bill over the weekend of March 6-7. The legislation includes $1,400 checks for many Americans (including dependents and individuals with disabilities), an extension of unemployment benefits, additional funding for COVID vaccines, testing and treatment, billions for state and local governments including schools, and incentives for states, like North Carolina, to extend Medicaid health care benefits to the uninsured.
The bill does include funding for Medicaid Home and Community-based Services (HCBS), something that the disability community has been fighting to have included in relief packages since the start of the pandemic. This funding is urgently needed to ensure that people with disabilities have the option to live outside of congregate settings, where the risk of COVID is much higher. Under the Senate’s HCBS provisions, states would have the option of receiving a 10 percentage point increase in their Medicaid matching rate for HCBS services (subject to a 95 percent limit) for one year starting April 1, 2021. As a condition of the increase, states would be required to use this additional funding to expand and enhance HCBS in one or more listed ways, including and reducing HCBS waiting lists; increasing HCBS reimbursement rates and providing “retainer” payments to financially stressed providers; and addressing HCBS providers’ higher COVID-19 related costs such as hazard and overtime pay, emergency supplies and equipment, training, education and recruitment. States would be required to maintain, not supplant, their level of HCBS spending as of April 1, 2021.
The bill returns to the US House this week to vote on the Senate’s revised version. ASNC continues to monitor Congressional actions and will provide updated information if anything changes.
North Carolina State Government Budget and Legislative Work: The North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) is back holding regular committee meetings, including Joint Appropriations, as part of its ongoing work during the long legislative session from now until the end of June. Committees are hearing information from staff and state agencies about the budget process, current budget status, and the effects of past legislation and the pandemic on state operations. Committee chairs informed their members that they would be meeting over the next four to six weeks to piece together their spending priorities. The Senate is taking the lead on passing an appropriation bill this year and leadership has been quietly working behind closed doors these last few weeks. The Governor’s budget will likely be released later in March and the NC Senate’s two-year budget bill sometime after.
The NC General Assembly makes direct decisions about how many Innovations waiver slots are funded, how much funding goes to help IDD services for people without insurance, and how much is available for special education and services that support IEPs, just to name a few of our priorities. As part of our public policy advocacy ASNC’s lobbyists are meeting with budget chairs and other legislators, urging them to prioritize funding for waiver slots, direct support staff wages, other funding for services across the spectrum, and for all our policy priorities.
How you can help:
The Autism Society of North Carolina will stand up for what is needed for this community, but it’s not possible for ASNC to do this advocacy on our own. We urge you to write to your NCGA members:
- Introduce yourself and how you are connected to autism.
- Tell them your story of how having, or not having, services is affecting you.
- Ask them to fund what is needed for you, or your family, and others on the autism spectrum.
ASNC can help your frame your story. View the following resources on our website:
The NCGA website will help you identify who represents you. Check the circle for NC House and NC Senate to see who represents you in the General Assembly.
- Behavior Analyst Licensure Bill: Legislators in both the House and Senate are supporting legislation which would provide a path for behavior analysts to obtain licensure and practice on their own licensure process for Behavior Analysists in North Carolina who currently are not able House Bill 91 and Senate Bill 103, both titled Reduce Reg. To Help Children with Autism, were heard in their respective health care committees the week of March 2, received favorable reports, and will continue on their legislative paths headed for a second set of committee hearings before, hopefully, floor votes. ASNC has long supported licensing behavior analysts through previous versions of the legislation.
- NC 2021 COVID Response and Relief H196: The NCGA passed a $1.7 billion-dollar COVID-19 bill focused on allocating unspent COVID-19 pandemic relief funds from the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). The funds, directed at pandemic and economic issues, include $600 million for COVID-19 testing and related services and $360 million for school reopening. While there is no specific funding for additional IDD services, the bill includes an extension of the 5% Medicaid fee-for-service rate increases that were set to expire March 31, 2021, to June 30, 2021, unless the public health emergency ends, or Executive Order No. 116 expires or is rescinded, prior to that date.
- Latest Executive Order in response to COVID-19: Governor Roy Cooper relaxed several statewide coronavirus restrictions as the state’s new cases have dropped significantly since the beginning of the year. Executive Order 195 ends the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 10 to 25; the outdoor limit of 50 will not change. The curfew on the sale of alcohol for onsite consumption will be moved to 11 p.m. from 9 p.m. Some businesses, including private bars and amusement parks, will now be open for patrons indoors, subject to the new occupancy restrictions. In addition, more spectators will be allowed at high school, college, and professional sports events. The number allowed will depend on the size of the venue.
Please contact Jennifer Mahan, ASNC Director of Public Policy, at email@example.com for assistance with these issues and other questions about advocacy.Tags: autism advocacy, autism health care, Autism Society of North Carolina, legislation, medicaid, NC state budget, ncga, North Carolina General Assembly, public policy