** UPDATE ON JANUARY 18: At 6:33pm ET on January 17, the Senate voted to pass the 3-month Money Follows the Person extension. Look at our ANCOR Capitol Correspondence article this upcoming Tuesday for more details! **
The House of Representatives has increased pressure on the Senate to end the partial shutdown, now in its third week and costing the economy an estimated over $1 billion a week. In addition to the short-term continuing resolution it sent the Senate on January 3rd to re-open the closed portions of the federal government, last week the House passed the following bills of interest to the I/DD community:
- A bill funding the Department of Agriculture, which would resolve the insecurity currently weighing over how long food stamps will be available given that the Department is currently shut down. People with I/DD are among those eligible for food stamps.
- A bill funding the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is also currently shutdown. The closure has been creating concern in the disability community as funding will soon run out for housing supports if the shutdown persists. ANCOR members interested in learning more on how the shutdown affects housing might could benefit from a webinar by the National Low Income Housing Coalition on that very topic, scheduled for Tuesday, January 15.
Another shutdown-related discussion ANCOR is monitoring is the one surrounding the fate of AbilityOne federal contractors. While both the House and Senate voted to give federal employees affected by the shutdown retroactive pay as soon as the shutdown ends, this bipartisan action did not include retroactive pay for federal contractors. The AbilityOne program is considered a federal contractor. Negotiations are currently underway to seek a solution specific to the AbilityOne program.
In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to state he will not bring any funding-related bill to a vote without the President’s approval. Politico Pro has shared that the White House has been actively advocating to Congressional Republicans to not defect to Democratic funding bills until funding has been arranged for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Party support for the President so far remains strong enough to have ended talks started by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to find a solution to the shutdown. However, it is noteworthy that 12 GOP lawmakers voted on the Agriculture and HUD funding bills.
As a silver lining, Politico Pro reported that the House also passed a bill renewing Money Follows the Person (MFP) for three months. Renewing this important rebalancing program, which ran out of funding in 2016, is an ANCOR priority. Because this is a standalone bill not tied to shutdown discussions, ANCOR is hopeful MFP renewal has the potential to avoid partisan opposition in the Senate, where it is now headed. We will keep members informed if there is any need for action.